In a recent ruling, a jury in Green Bay, Wisconsin ordered medical device manufacturer DePuy Synthes, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, to pay $8.2 million in damages to Acantha LLC for a patent infringement involving an orthopedic assembly joint used in various types of surgeries. The ruling, which was delivered on August 21, 2018 as a unanimous verdict from the jury of three men and five women, was arrived at after only five hours of deliberation, which followed a trial that lasted seven days.
The basis of the suit, which began in 2015, was based on claims that DePuy Synthes has infringed upon the original patent that had been awarded to Acantha LLC. According to the lawsuit, the patent had originally been awarded to Acantha as early as 2001, then was reissued to the company in late 2011 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
During the trial, jurors heard testimony that David Talaber, who was one of the two inventors of the medical device, had in fact contacted officials at DePuy Synthes and informed them about the company’s patent soon after it was issued. According to evidence introduced during the trial, Talaber contacted DePuy Synthes both in writing and by phone when providing them with the patent information.
In addition to evidence presented by Mr. Talaber, the jury also heard testimony that the device’s other co-inventor, Dr. James Lloyd, actually traveled to the Massachusetts headquarters of DePuy Synthes in 2006 to discuss a possible arrangement as to how Acantha’s patent may have been able to help DePuy with various difficulties it was experiencing with its implant devices. However, even after these discussions, DePuy Synthes was found to have never licensed the patent in any way, thus putting them in violation of patent infringement rights.
Soon after these discussions, Acantha LLC concluded that DePuy Synthes had violated their patent by developing a series of spine implant devices, all of which showed similar characteristics of Acantha’s implant devices. In fact, Acantha focused specifically on such spine implant devices as the Vectra, Vectra-T, Vectra-One, and the Zero-P VA System.
Based on evidence presented by Acantha LLC, the jury noted numerous similarities in the devices of Acantha LLC and DePuy Synthes, thus arriving at its verdict. Based on its belief that DePuy Synthes willfully chose to infringe on the patent that had been previously awarded to Acantha LLC, the jury reached its verdict of awarding $8.2 million in damages to Acantha.
Due to the complexities of these types of cases, companies that claim patent infringement violations against a competitor expect to have their cases play out for possibly several years before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. Because there are so many variables involved in determining who owned a patent, when it had been issued, and whether the claims of infringement are indeed valid, cases such as these often have much at stake for all parties.
As this case ended, it is expected that possibly additional lawsuits will be filed by companies alleging similar patent infringements regarding medical devices. And while the Acantha LLC case was one in which the plaintiff successfully proved their argument, that by no means guarantees all cases have the same results. Despite similarities in products, unless it can be clearly shown to the court that a patent had been issued prior to the development of a competitor’s product, these cases can at times be difficult to prove. Thus, it’s always best to discuss your specific case with an attorney specializing in patent infringements and civil litigation. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Sadaka Associates are well-versed in such cases and may be able to provide you assistance.
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