The company sued Bio-Rad, Bio-Rad's subsidiary MJ Research and Stratagene for allegedly infringing the patent (No 6,814,934, entitled Instrument for monitoring nucleic acid amplification. The patent covers real-time thermal cyclers and was awarded on 9 November.
Thermal cyclers are a standard bit of equipment in any laboratory using PCR 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 June, Applied Biosystems won a legal battle in Germany that led to certain thermal cycler products from Bio-Rad and MJ Research being subject to an injunction. This was the first injunction awarded under the patent in Europe, although in April 2003, a similar injunction was obtained against Bio-Rad in Japan, based on a corresponding Japanese patent.
In its US complaint, Applera alleges that MJ Research's Opticon, Opticon 2, and Chromo 4 systems; Bio-Rad's iCycler iQ and MyiQ instruments; and Stratagene's Mx4000 and Mx3000P instruments infringe the '934 patent.
The complaint seeks a permanent injunction against all three parties from infringing the patent and aims to make the rival companies "destroy their inventory of infringing instruments." Applera is also going for damages for lost profits, and as a minimum a 'reasonable' royalty on sales to date.
Stratagene responded by saying that it is evaluating the claims in the patent, and pointed out that it is a long-term licensee of Applied Biosystems, an operating group of Applera, for the manufacture, use and sale of thermal cyclers for use in PCR.
The company's CEO Joseph Sorge said: "We hope to preserve our cooperative business relationship with both Applied Biosystems and Applera as we formulate an appropriate response and course of action."