Applied Bio fends off patent challenge

Related tags Dna sequencing Polymerase chain reaction Dna Applied biosystems

Applied Biosystems has won a round in its ongoing legal dispute
over a technology used in its automated DNA sequencing instruments.

The suit had sought to break the patents held or licensed by Applied Biosystems on its four-colour automated DNA sequencing system, freeing up other companies to use the technology.

The US District Court for the Central District of California rejected claims by Henry Huang that he had invented the DNA sequencing technology covered in four patents held by Applied Biosystems. Three of the four disputed patents are owned by the California Institute of Technology and licensed by Applied Biosystems, while a fourth patent is assigned directly to the company.

Huang, formerly at CalTech and now at the University of Washington, has said that he is not looking for financial gain from the dispute, but wants the patents to be non-exclusive, freeing up other companies to develop instruments based on the technology and injecting some competition into the market.

This is also the view of MJ Research, which has filed its own 'whistle-blower' lawsuit, alleging the patent holders had overcharged taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. The US government has purchased an estimated 6,000 DNA sequencers, at an average cost of between $200,000 and $300,000. MJ Research contends those prices were inflated by royalties the government should not have had to pay.

Michael Hunkapiller, president of Applied Biosystems, said: "We hope the court's decision will permanently lay to rest the unfounded allegations made by Dr Huang and by MJ Research, Inc. concerning the proper inventorship of these important technologies."

This case is just one of several legal matters involving claims between Applied Biosystems and MJ Research. In a related case, in November 2003, the US District Court for the Central District of California dismissed a complaint by MJ Research that the patents were improperly obtained and licensed because Dr. Huang was knowingly omitted from the patent applications. MJ Research has filed a motion to appeal the district court decision.

Meanwhile, still pending and scheduled for trial in March 2004 is an action in the US District Court of Connecticut wherein Applied Biosystems is suing MJ Research for infringement of patents covering polymerase chain reaction technology.

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