The District Court in Dusseldorf has issued injunctions against the manufacture and sale of some of MJ Research's thermal cyclers, distributed in Germany by Biozym Diagnostik, on the grounds that they infringe European patent No 872562, issued to Applied Biosystems parent company Applera in September 2002.
The injunction covers real-time thermal cyclers capable of performing real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing. It is the first injunction awarded under the patent in Europe, said a spokesman for Applied Biosystems, although in April 2003, a similar injunction was obtained against Bio-Rad in Japan based on a corresponding Japanese patent.
Thermal cyclers are a standard bit of equipment in any laboratory using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technologies to look at gene expression. They tend to be used by pharmaceutical companies looking at gene expression in response to drug treatment and to compare normal and diseased tissues to hunt for disease associated gene sequences.
In March, the European Patent Office revoked another broad Applera patent (EP 0236069) that covered real-time thermal cyclers on the grounds that it lacked an inventive step. The 872562 patent remains in force across the European Union, said the spokesman, but Applied Biosystems has to mount national challenges in each member state to enforce its intellectual property.
Meanwhile, a patent and antitrust dispute between MJ Research, Applera and its partner Roche came to an interim conclusion in April, with the jury awarding $17.8-$19.8 million against MJ Research. The company has taken out bankruptcy protection while the second phase of this case, focusing on the antitrust issue, takes place.
And in the US, Cepheid has expanded its license with Applied Biosystems, currently covering the use of real-time thermal cyclers in specific diagnostics, to include additional diagnostics, research and other applications. The license extends the areas in which Cepheid can market its thermal cycler products, including its Smart Cycler and GeneXpert real-time PCR ranges.
Cepheid has paid Applied Biosystems a $11.4 million (€9.4m) fee to extend the license.
Having notched up sales worth $252 million in 2001, the US and European market for real-time thermal cyclers is set to fetch combined revenues of $776 million by 2006, according to data from Frost & Sullivan.
F&S has suggested that the rising popularity of microarrays in the US and European life science market acts as a complementary driver for real-time thermal cyclers, for example in the validation of microarray results using real-time PCR.