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Illumina Wins UK Patent Infringement Suit Against BGI, Affiliates

This story has been updated to include additional comments from Illumina and MGI Tech.

NEW YORK – Illumina announced Wednesday that it has won a patent infringement lawsuit against China's BGI and several affiliated companies in the UK.

The UK's High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Patents Court found that BGI affiliates MGI Tech and Latvia MGI Tech infringed four Illumina patents covering sequencing-by-synthesis chemistry, including reversible terminators and labelled nucleotides. BGI's StandardMPS and CoolMPS technologies infringed three asserted patents, the court found, and Standard MPS infringed one more. The court also found the four patents were valid, while a fifth patent was found to be invalid.

"We are pleased with the court's decision," Illumina General Counsel and Senior VP Charles Dadswell said in a statement. "This adds to the growing list of courts around the world finding that BGI has misappropriated Illumina's proprietary, groundbreaking technology. We will continue to vigorously protect our intellectual property from BGI's willful infringement."

In a statement, MGI Tech said it welcomed the decision to invalidate one Illumina patent and noted that this patent had also been asserted in other cases around the world. "However, MGI is disappointed with the rulings on other mentioned patents. MGI continues to firmly believe that these patents are invalid and/or not infringed by MGI's proprietary CoolMPS and StandardMPS technologies and will immediately seek permission to appeal the decision," the firm said. San Diego-based Illumina has sued BGI for patent infringement in numerous countries, and obtained injunctions in the UK, US, Sweden, Spain, Germany, and Finland, the firm said in a statement. "Additional lawsuits are pending in Hong Kong, France, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Turkey, and Italy," Illumina noted.

Illumina announced the UK lawsuit in January 2020, where it alleged infringement of four European patents: EP 1530578 B1 and EP 3002289 B1, both titled "Modified nucleotides for polynucleotide sequencing;" EP 1828412 B2, titled "Improved method of nucleotide detection;" and EP 2021415 B1, titled "Dye compounds and the use of their labeled conjugates."

BGI has also countersued Illumina for patent infringement in the US and last week sued Illumina in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging violations of federal antitrust laws as well as California's unfair competition laws.

The UK court found the Illumina '412 patent to be invalid due to obviousness over another patent.

Illumina "intends to seek a permanent injunction fully prohibiting the supply or sale of BGI's StandardMPS and CoolMPS systems in the UK until the relevant patents expire," the firm said. According to Google Patents, the '578, '289, and '433 patents are anticipated to expire in 2023; the '415 patent, in 2027.

Monetary damages will be addressed at a separate hearing after all appeals on the liability judgment are complete, an Illumina spokesperson said in an email.

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