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Illumina eyes its next move after jury hands down $334 million patent infringement verdict

(The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Gene sequence giant Illumina is weighing its next moves after a federal jury in Delaware found the San Diego company infringed on two patents from a rival genomics company and awarded $334 million in damages.

Illumina said in a statement that it disagrees with the verdict, handed down May 6, and intends to appeal, though no action has been taken at this time.

The case centers on 2019 lawsuit filed by Complete Genomics — a U.S. subsidiary of Chinese genomics company BGI Group.

Illumina and BGI/Complete Genomics have been fighting over patents since 2010, with about a dozen legal actions in various U.S. federal courts.

Many of the cases have settled, though some remain under appeal. Additional patent lawsuits have been filed in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

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In this case, the jury found Illumina willfully infringed on BGI/Complete Genomics patents related to two-channel techniques used in genomics sequencing. The jury also ruled that three Illumina patents in the case were invalid.

Illumina contends the verdict is not supported by the evidence presented at trial.

“Illumina invented its 2-channel technology before the BGI patents, and BGI was unable to make 2-channel chemistry work until it copied Illumina’s technology,” said the company is a statement. “The evidence also showed that BGI had copied numerous components of Illumina’s technology, including its imaging buffer used in Illumina’s sequencing-by-synthesis technology and infringed Illumina’s patents related to that technology.”

If its appeal is unsuccessful, Illumina could be required to pay an ongoing royalty until the patents expire in 2029, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“In addition, although Complete Genomics may seek an injunction, we do not believe there is a reasonable basis for the court to grant one,” said Illumina in the filing.

In April, Illumina won an $8 million verdict against BGI from a jury in Northern California federal court, as well as a permanent injunction. But it will be short lived. The patents in that case expire in August 2022 and January 2023.

Illumina’s shares dropped sharply following the verdict but have rebounded somewhat since. The stock closed Friday up 7.4 percent at $233.56 on the Nasdaq exchange.