A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Affymetrix (Santa Clara, California) reported that it has filed additional patent infringement lawsuits against Illumina (San Diego) in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, in the UK High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Patents Court and in the German D sseldorf Regional Court, Patent Division.

Affymetrix said it is seeking all available remedies, including injunctive relief.

The new suits target technology offered by Solexa (Hayward, California), the company acquired by Illumina in January 2007 for $600 million in stock, as well as all of Illumina’s BeadArray products. Affymetrix also filed new lawsuits in Germany and the U.K. because the infringing acts extend beyond the U.S. market.

Affymetrix previously sued Illumina for patent infringement in 2004 in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. In March 2007, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Affymetrix. The jury found that Illumina’s arrays, assays, scanners, software and related products infringed on one or more claims of all five of Affymetrix’ (5,535,531, 5,795,716, 6,355,432, 6,399,365, and 6,646,243) patents-in-suit. The jury imposed a royalty of 15%, and awarded total damages of more than $16.7 million for the period of 2002-2005.

After the final judgment, the court will calculate the additional damages through the date of the final judgment.

The next phase of the trial, which will focus on the validity of Affymetrix’ patents, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 11, 2008. The following phase, expected to occur in May or June 2008, will determine whether Illumina’s infringement was willful. Affymetrix has also requested injunctive relief in this case, and will ask that the court take up this request once the patents are found to be valid.

Affymetrix GeneChip microarray technology is used for analyzing complex genetic information. The company’s products are designed to allow researchers to develop diagnostics and tailor treatments for individual patients by identifying and measuring the genetic information associated with complex diseases.

Illumina’s CEO, Jay Flatley, responded to the suits in a statement.

“We are disappointed to see that Affymetrix continues to choose to compete with Illumina in the court room rather than in the market place. Our policy is to respect the valid and enforceable intellectual property rights of others and to take licenses where appropriate. In that regard, we believe that we do not infringe any valid claims of the patents asserted by Affymetrix in its recent complaints. All of these patents expire in or before 2010, except for two European patents. These patents (except European Patent 0799897) belong to the same family and are related to some of the patents that Affymetrix asserted against us in a litigation it commenced in 2004. We will continue to defend and support our customers against Affymetrix’ unfounded claims.”

Flatley said Illumina has already taken several steps to curtail Affymetrix’ “overly broad approach” to patent protection. Specifically, in the 2004 litigation, he said his company sought a declaration that all five of the patents at issue are invalid. In addition, on Oct. 19, the company requested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reexamine and invalidate these five patents.

“Last year we opposed at the European Patent Office one of the patents that Affymetrix is asserting against us in this new lawsuit (European Patent 0799897) and were later joined in that opposition by Innogenetics [Gent, Belgium].

As for the other two European patents Affymetrix is now claiming Illumina infringes, Flatley pointed out that these too have already been opposed by Abbott Laboratories (Abbott Park, Illinois), Agilent Technologies (Santa Clara, California), and Applera (Norwalk, Connecticut).

In other patent news: iVoice (Matawan, New Jersey) reported that it has received notification of a patent allowance award for the company’s “Methodology for Talking Consumer Products with Voice Instructions via Wireless Technology”

To a person with low vision or a physical disability, talking instruction products can mean independence. Talking products offer independence to people with limited use of their hands or to people whose vision is limited. The result is greater satisfaction with their ability to control their own environment and less dependence on caregivers to attend to these common tasks, according to the company.

The invention includes methods for communicating product use instructions to a consumer by wireless communication from a central processor to a plurality of product containers for subsequence audio speech playback to consumers. A method of communicating product use instructions to a plurality of consumers comprises providing a plurality of product containers with a microprocessor attached to each product container, and an activation button for initiating the talking instructions.