GE Healthcare sued by life sciences company for patent infringement

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Molecular probes are part of Invitrogen’s fluorescence microscopy product line. Source: Invitrogen  

Invitrogen, a life sciences company, has filed a patent lawsuit against GE Healthcare alleging “willful” infringement of its intellectual property. The lawsuit alleges that GE Healthcare's CyScript reverse transcriptase enzymes and kits infringe on six patents of the Carlsbad, Calif.-based Invitrogen.

GE Healthcare informed Health Imaging News that “on March 26, 2008, Invitrogen filed two lawsuits against GE Healthcare regarding alleged patent infringement. “We disagree with Invitrogen's claims and intend to defend the lawsuits. Because we are currently in litigation, we do not believe it is appropriate to comment any further at this time.”

Although four of the patents expired earlier this year, Invitrogen said it is seeking royalties on past sales of GE products, making the company entitled to triple damages if the company argues successfully that GE willfully infringed the patents.

The U.S. patents in contention are Nos. 6,610,522; 6,589,768; 6,063,608 and 5,668,005, which all expired in January. Patents 5,244,797 and 5,405,776 are similar, relating to a gene which encodes reverse transcriptase having DNA polymerase activity and substantially no RNase H activity.

Invitrogen claims that the patents cover an invention, which details a method of producing reverse transcriptase having DNA polymerase activity and substantially no RNase H activity by expressing the reverse transcriptase genes of the present invention in a host.

The invention also relates to vectors containing the gene and hosts transformed with the vectors of the invention, according to the lawsuit, and also relates to a method of producing cDNA from mRNA using the reverse transcriptase of the invention. The kit for the preparation of cDNA from mRNA comprises the reverse transcriptase of the invention, Invitrogen said.

In February, Invitrogen and Agilent settled patent infringement in which Agilent agreed to make an undisclosed payment to Invitrogen. In return, Agilent had to stop sale of its RNase H minus reverse transcriptase products.

“The patent system, as it presently operates, provides the incentive necessary to fuel the development of innovative and beneficial research tools by granting an inventor the exclusive right to control the use of his invention for a limited time,” Invitrogen stated.