A Medical Device Daily

Medtronic (Minneapolis) yesterday issued a statement saying that the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California issued rulings in a case related to intellectual property between Cross Medical Products, a business of Biomet (Warsaw, Indiana), and Medtronic Sofamor Danek (Memphis, Tennessee).

Medtronic said: “Without a hearing, the court granted Cross an injunction on Medtronic products that were found to infringe one of Cross’s patents relating to multi-axial screws used in spinal fusion surgery.” It said that the in-junction has been stayed for 90 days, taking effect on Aug. 22.

However, Medtronic said it would ask the appeals court to extend the stay pending rulings on appeal. Earlier rulings on the case already are on appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Medtronic said it also would appeal the rulings.

“Our primary concern is to ensure that patients and surgeons will continue to have access to our multi-axial screw technology,” said Michael DeMane, senior vice president and president of Medtronic’s Spinal and Navigation divisions. “We disagree with this ruling and believe the judgments against Medtronic will be successfully challenged on multiple grounds ranging from procedural issues to more complex issues of patent interpretation and validity.”

This week’s ruling involved one of five patents in dispute in this case. On April 8 the court ruled that Cross Medical’s cervical plate products infringed two of Medtronic’s patents and that certain claims in two of Cross’s other patents were invalid. Medtronic said it intends to seek “appropriate damages” for the infringement.

The crosslink and cervical plate technologies are utilized in spinal surgery. Around 400,000 patients undergo spinal fusion procedures annually to address degenerative disc disease, deformity or injury of the thoracic, lumbar and sacral spine.

In other legalities:

For the second time, the judge in the trial of Richard Scrushy, founder and former chief executive officer of HealthSouth (Birmingham, Alabama), yesterday gave instructions to the jury now deliberating in the case charging him with masterminding a $2.7 billion accounting fraud at the firm.

On Tuesday, jurors told U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre that they were having difficulty coming to an agreement on the charges, which have the significance of providing an initial test of new Sarbanes-Oxley rules that hold a company’s top executive responsible for the accuracy of the company’s accounting practices.

Bowdre told jurors that in order to find Scrushy guilty of the accounting conspiracy, they must agree on at least one of the many charges against him. And she encouraged them to “work hard” on reaching a “unanimous verdict.”

The jurors’ difficulty in reaching such a unanimous decision may indicate that the case could be heading for a mistrial.

A string of former HealthSouth financial executives have already been found guilty in the accounting fraud, but the key issue is whether or not Scrushy knew what was happening and was essentially responsible for the fraud. The number of charges against him are multiple and he could spend the rest of his life in prison, if found guilty, observers say.

His defense team is hoping for a finding of “reasonable doubt,” while prosecutors are downplaying the possibility of a jury deadlock.