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12 January 2021AmericasMuireann Bolger

Illumina accused of fraud in DNA tech patents dispute

Illumina tried to secure its control over the DNA sequencing technology market by violating antitrust law, according to a suit by BGI Americas and two of its subsidiaries, at the US Court for the District Court of San Francisco.

The complaint, recorded yesterday, January 11, claims that Illumina fraudulently obtained two patents, US numbers 7,771,973 and 7,771,973 and made baseless allegations of infringement of another, US number 10,480,025. All of the disputed patents cover the use of azidomethyl in DNA sequencing.

The move by BGI follows a preliminary injunction in June that prevented the China-based company from launching its CoolMPS sequencing system in the US, after Illumina alleged that it infringed its patents by “brazenly copied Illumina’s proprietary sequencing chemistry”.

According to BGI’s complaint, “Illumina obtained two of the patents through fraud...by concealing, among other things that its scientists copied and plagiarised...”

It claimed that if the examiner at the US Patent and Trademark Office had been aware of these actions, the patents would never have been granted.

It added that with regards to the third ‘025 patent, there “is no reasonably objective or subjective basis by which Illumina could assert that BGI’s’ CoolMPS product infringes the claims of that patent”.

“Illumina’s assertion of the ’025 patent against plaintiffs is objectively and subjectively baseless, is sham litigation, and constitutes a PRE/Handgards-type antitrust violation,” the filing said.

BGI added that through this “fraud and baseless patent litigation”, Illumina obtained a preliminary injunction, which harmed consumers by preventing BGI from even introducing competition (CoolMPS) into the US market.

BGI also pointed to a claim by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that held Ilumina was a monopolist in a previous complaint against the biotech to prevent it “from extinguishing yet another potential competitor”, Pacific Biosciences of California.

It also cited the FTC’s contention that in the US, Illumina had complete dominance over the DNA sequencing technology market, with a share of over 90%, and had faced little competition over the years.

According to media reports, Illumina also hired a Washington lobbyist to stir up opposition to BGI’s proposed acquisition of Complete Genomics (CGI) in 2012, said BGI.

In doing so, Illumina attempted to characterise BGI as part of the Chinese government and had falsely claimed that the Chinese government would fund BGI and allow it to move its technology forward at a pace that Illumina could not match.

With its acquisition of CGI in 2013—which became the research arm of the BGI Group—BGI was able to leverage new sequencing technology to advance science at an even greater rate, said the filing. It also added that “while both Illumina and CGI offer sequencing solutions in the...market, their approaches are quite different”.

BGI is seeking a ruling that Illumina engaged in antitrust activities, a permanent injunction prohibiting Illumina from maintaining its patent lawsuits, alongside damages.

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8 September 2017   Genetic sequencing company Illumina has filed a patent infringement suit against Premaitha Health, a molecular diagnostics company, in the English High Court.
Americas
20 April 2017   Genetic sequencing company Illumina and Cornell University have together sought to dismiss a patent dispute over eight genetic testing patents belonging to Cornell.

More on this story

Europe
8 September 2017   Genetic sequencing company Illumina has filed a patent infringement suit against Premaitha Health, a molecular diagnostics company, in the English High Court.
Americas
20 April 2017   Genetic sequencing company Illumina and Cornell University have together sought to dismiss a patent dispute over eight genetic testing patents belonging to Cornell.