Sequenom, a maker of genetic analysis products, said it was being sued by Beckman Coulter and Orchid Cellmark over Sequenom's MassArray iPlex products that are designed for Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping applications. It's alleged the products infringe on three patents - US Nos. 6,004,744; 5,888,819; and 6,004,744 which cover techniques and reagents used for genotyping applications, which are part of Beckman's GenomeLab SNPstream Genotyping System. The legal action closely mirrors that of Oxford Gene Technology (OGT) which filed suit late last month against BioArray Solutions. The US-based company is alleged to have infringed upon three of OGT's patents relating to technology capable of detailed cell analysis using a silicon chip. Analysts believe the increasing ease in which cases of this kind end up in court raises questions as to the plaintiff's exact intentions. Litigation of the type has been common in the sector simply as a way to secure intellectual property rights. Sequenom said in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday that it believed that the plaintiffs' claims were without merit and would vigorously defend against the claims advanced in the complaint. Beckman and Orchid responded by claiming that Sequenom was informed twice earlier this year that its products were infringing the '819 and '744 patents. Sequenom's MassArray iPlex is used for sub-whole genome study applications, fine mapping and validation studies and for routine applications that employ fixed SNP panels. The iPLEX Gold assay combines single-base primer extension biochemistry with MALDI-TOF MS detection that allows assays to be multiplexed by up to 40 SNPs in one individual reaction. Throughput levels of up to 150,000 genotypes per instrument and day are therefore possible. The assay design is automated and all oligonucleotides are unlabeled and of standard quality allowing for a quicker turn-around time from assay design to result. The three patents in dispute refer to a reagent composition that can determine the identity of a nucleotide base at a specific position in a nucleic acid of interest. The invention may be used to determine the presence or absence of a specific nucleotide sequence in a sample. It may also be employed in determination of genotype and in the identification of different alleles. The firms have asked the court to permanently instruct Sequenom from selling products that they believe infringe the three patents. In addition, the companies are also seeking damages for lost profit and costs associated with the lawsuit.