In the last 20 years, patent lawsuits have seen an increase from 500 to nearly 3,000 annually, and medical organizations are no exception to the numbers. Recently, the UC Board of Regents filed a lawsuit against St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific Corporation for patent infringement.
UC alleged that the two organizations had made use of various medical technologies without permission from the regents, who own their patents.
Micheal Lesh, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, invented a piece of equipment as well as a method that helps prevent atrial fibrillation, which happens when irregular electrical impulses in the heart cause poor blood flow and erratic heart beats.
The patents, one acquired in 2000 and the other in 2003, were specifically for developing a circumferential conduction block, which isolates electronic pulses from the pulmonary vein to the left atrium in the heart.
Atrial fibrillation, the disorder Lesh was aiming to prevent with his technologies, affects over 6.1 million Americans every year.
Lesh was granted patents for both pieces of technology under the name of the regents.
According to the lawsuits filed, the regents alleged that the use of their technology “induces others to infringe” on their patents. The lawsuit also stated that both companies under fire were well aware of the patents’ existence and even supported them with live demonstrations of the technology.
St. Jude responded to UC’s initial letter on June 13. Their letter stated that the regents “wrongfully asserted that it was not promoting any SJM devices for use in a manner that infringes the asserted patents.”
The lawsuit may seem sudden to many, but according to a 2012 article from the Daily Californian, this type of behavior isn’t unusual for the university.
The article recalls that in 2012, UC sued organizations such as Facebook, Wal-Mart, and even Disney.
Greg Aharonian, editor of the Internet Patent News Service, said that patent lawsuits like the one UC is filing currently have the potential to bring in a lot of money for research institutions.
“These kinds of cases are in the tens [to] hundreds of millions, so it’s a worthwhile gamble,” he added.
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