DUBLIN, Ireland - Trinity Biotech plc has yet to enter commercial negotiations with either Becton Dickinson and Co. or the Anglo-Dutch food giant Unilever plc, following a complaint alleging patent infringement it filed against each company in late August.

Dublin-based Trinity alleged the two companies infringed a 1992 patent on a rotary fluid manipulator used in diagnostic test kits for the over-the-counter market. Trinity acquired exclusive rights to the disputed technology in 1994, when it merged with Disease Detection Inc., said Trinity spokesman Bob Joyce.

Trinity Biotech has filed court documents but has yet to serve its complaints on the two parties named in the dispute. This must occur within 120 days or the lawsuit will be dismissed. Trinity hopes to enter commercial negotiations with the two companies in order to resolve the matter, Joyce said. He would not confirm whether Trinity is considering taking action against any other firms on the same issue.

Richard Rodrick, chief intellectual property counsel at Becton Dickinson, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., said the action “came as a complete surprise to us.“ The patent, he added, “does not seem to be well-pointed at any of our products.“ Becton is examining the disputed patent and its history, before deciding on its next course of action.

Unilever, of London and Rotterdam, declined to comment on the case, although Rodrick said he believes it is not connected with the Becton complaint.

Trinity has itself licensed from Becton technology that is incorporated into its Uni-Gold platform for one-step diagnostic tests. This is not connected with the current dispute. Joyce said he does not expect the case to adversely affect this arrangement.

Trinity, which is quoted on the Nasdaq small-cap market under the symbols TRIZF and TRIBY, reported net income of US$0.6 million on revenues of US$5.5 million for the second quarter of this year. As of June 30, it had more than US$5 million in cash. *