Diagnostics giant Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings must pay a fetal DNA testmaker $272.5 million for copying a method of screening for Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities, according to a Texas jury verdict that Ravgen Inc. counsel John M. Desmarais confirmed to Bloomberg Law.
The jury decided after deliberating for about four hours that Labcorp's method of combining chemicals to stabilize blood samples was too similar to Ravgen's method of adding formaldehyde to preserve DNA for testing.
"We believe that Ravgen's claims are wholly without merit and, therefore, we are disappointed with the jury's verdict and are reviewing our options for an appeal," a Labcorp representative said in a statement to Bloomberg Law.
Ravgen sued Labcorp in October 2020, alleging that its MaterniT and informaSeq tests violate Ravgen founder Dr. Ravinder S. Dhallan's U.S. Patent Nos. 7,727,720 and 7,332,277, covering methods to detect cell-free fetal DNA from the mother's blood. The jury trial began Sept. 19, centering on claims that LabCorp infringed the '277 patent. Ravgen asked for payments of $100 per Labcorp test executed with the infringing technology, amounting to a requested $272.5 million in damages, which the jury granted.
During opening arguments, Labcorp's counsel Edward G. Poplawski, of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC, said the company uses glycine and another chemical to stabilize DNA in blood samples and to improve the accuracy of the test. According to Poplawski, its commercial partner Streck developed the testing method and obtained a patent for it in 1998.
"Because our approach is different, Labcorp does not infringe Ravgen's patent," he said.
Ravgen counsel Deron Dacus, however, argued that US Food and Drug Administration documents filed under oath prove Labcorp's test tubes "work just like the patent," meaning Ravgen "should be paid a reasonable royalty for unauthorized and extensive use" of the technology.
Labcorp decided midtrial to drop its defense that the '277 patent is invalid, after a cross examination of Streck's CEO revealed that alleged prior art did not actually predate the patent.
A Labcorp spokesperson said a pair of validity challenges to Ravgen's test patents are pending at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, where decisions are due in November and December.
"Ravgen and Dr. Dhallan have sort of been treated poorly by these large diagnostics companies for a decade now,"Desmarais said. "We're very excited we can champion his cause because patent rights are important in this country. Big companies need stop willfully infringing.”
Desmarais LLP and The Dacus Firm PC represent Ravgen. Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, Reed Smith LLP, and Wilson Sonsini represent Labcorp.
The case is Ravgen, Inc. v. Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings, W.D. Tex., No. 20-cv-00969.
Source: Bloomberg Law-Kelcee Griffis
Editor: IPR Daily-Ann