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PacBio, Oxford Nanopore Settle Patent Dispute in Europe

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore Technologies have entered into a five-year settlement of a patent infringement dispute in Europe.

Under the terms of the agreement, Oxford Nanopore will not sell its 2D sequencing products in the UK or in Germany through the end of 2023. In addition, Oxford Nanopore has agreed to dismiss a countersuit it had brought against PacBio in those countries.

The settlement pertains to a lawsuit that PacBio filed against Oxford Nanopore in the UK last year, claiming that the company infringed on two patents it holds in Europe: European Patent 3045542, "Methods for nucleic acid sequencing;" and European Patent 3170904, "Compositions and methods for nucleic acid sequencing."

Specifically, the patents relate to sequencing both strands of a DNA molecule, and PacBio claimed that Oxford Nanopore's 2D sequencing products infringed on them. Oxford Nanopore's 2D sequencing products made use of a hairpin to connect the two strands of a DNA molecule in order to sequence them both and improve the raw read accuracy. PacBio claimed the method infringed on its consensus sequencing technology.

Oxford Nanopore had also sued PacBio in the UK and in Germany, claiming that it infringed on its European patent 1192453, "Molecular and atomic scale evaluation of biopolymers." As part of the settlement, Oxford Nanopore has dropped the suit and PacBio has agreed to dismiss its action attempting to invalidate that patent.

"From the beginning, our goal with the UK and German actions was to enforce and protect our intellectual property estate, specifically with regard to Oxford Nanopore's 2D products, which utilize PacBio's single molecule consensus sequencing technology, and which Oxford Nanopore discontinued soon after we initiated the litigation," PacBio CEO Mike Hunkapiller said in a statement.

Oxford Nanopore discontinued its 2D sequencing products last year after launching its 1D2 sequencing kits, which it said are "superior" to the "obsolete" 2D kits. It will continue selling 1D2 and other kits. "We do not infringe their patents and the settlement has no impact on our current business or on our future plans," said Oxford Nanopore CEO Gordon Sanghera in a statement. 

The two companies are still embroiled in other patent disputes in the US, where PacBio has sued Oxford Nanopore for infringement of four separate patents. A trial is scheduled to start in March 2020.

Earlier this year, the US International Trade Commission also determined that Oxford Nanopore's products do not infringe on two of PacBio's US patents that are related to the European ones in the current settlement. PacBio is appealing that decision.

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