A Medical Device Daily

Synergetics USA (O'Fallon, Missouri) reported that it has filed a civil, antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Alcon (Huenenberg, Switzerland) and its primary operating subsidiary in the U.S., Alcon Laboratories (Fort Worth, Texas), asserting that it has suffered losses in the "tens of millions of dollars" resulting from Alcon's alleged unfair practices.

The company said it seeks a recovery that it believes could exceed $100 million.

The lawsuit was filed by Hanly Conroy Bierstein Sheridan Fisher & Hayes (New York), in conjunction with Simmons Cooper (East Alton, Illinois), with both firms working on a contingency-fee basis.

In its filing with the court, Synergetics alleges that Alcon has used its monopoly power in the market for vitrectomy machines used in vitreoretinal surgery, to control purchasing decisions in favor of its surgical illumination sources and associated accessories, and has done this to the detriment of sales of Synergetics' products, particularly of the Photon line of light sources, light pipes, laser probes and other accessories.

The lawsuit describes anti-competitive behaviors, which include commercial disparagement of Synergetics' products; payment of grant monies to surgeons, hospitals and clinics in order to influence purchasing decisions; the maintenance of an advisory board comprised of hundreds of surgeons, each of whom are required to buy Alcon's products for their practices, and many of whom receive benefits far beyond their contributions, including annual six-figure consulting fees; predatory pricing; the hiring of a key Synergetics manager to gain access to specific key product information; an unlawful rebate program; and a threat to Synergetics of further market lock-out unless given a license to use some of Synergetics' key patented technologies.

The suit also describes an alleged scheme used by Alcon to gain and maintain market share by making sales of its light pipes conditional to sales of its patented fluid collection cassettes that are required in order to perform each vitreoretinal surgery.

"For years Synergetics and other smaller companies have been forced to watch as Alcon unfairly and increasingly controlled the vitreoretinal surgical markets, escalating healthcare costs while stifling innovative and cost effective technological advances. Our experience has convinced us that without this action, Alcon will drive all other players from the vitreoretinal surgical market," said Gregg Scheller, president/CEO of Synergetics USA.

Last week Alcon agreed to be acquired by pharma giant Novartis (Basel, Switzerland) for $39 billion in a two-step bid (Medical Device Daily, April 8, 2008).

Synergetics focuses on the vitreoretinal, neurosurgery, and ear, nose and throat surgery markets.

In other legalities:

• Immersion (San Jose, California), a developer of touch feedback technology, reported that its subsidiary, Immersion Medical (Gaithersburg, Maryland), filed a lawsuit for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Mentice AB (Gothenburg, Sweden), Mentice SA (Morges, Switzerland), Simbionix USA (Cleveland) and Simbionix Ltd. (Lod, Israel).

The complaint alleges that each of the defendants infringe claims of U.S. patent nos. 6,106,301; 5,821,920; 6,323,837; and 5,844,392, which are owned by Immersion Medical. The complaint seeks damages and injunctive relief.

Immersion makes computer-based surgical simulation training systems. Its primary product lines are the Virtual IV, Endoscopy AccuTouch simulator, CathLabVR surgical simulator and LaparoscopyVR surgical simulation system.

• OraSure Technologies (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) reported that it has received a complaint from Inverness Medical Innovations (IMI; Waltham, Massachusetts), Inverness Medical Switzerland and Church & Dwight (Princeton, New Jersey), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that the manufacture and sale of the company's OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV-1/2 Antibody Test infringes U.S. patent No. 6,485,982.

OraSure said it believes that none of its products, including the OraQuick Advance Test, infringe the patent or other intellectual property rights of any party. The company also said it believes that the asserted patent is invalid and it intends "to defend this lawsuit vigorously."

OraSure makes oral fluid specimen collection devices using oral fluid technologies, diagnostic products including immunoassays and other in vitro diagnostic tests, and other devices.