International conflict: Cochlear implant systems patent case between the United States and AustraliaAAA IPRIGHT2
An Australian biotech company Cochlear and the University of Pittsburgh have gone to battle it out in an American court over patent infringement.
The University of Pittsburgh is a public state-related research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university is composed of 17 undergraduate and graduate schools and colleges at its urban Pittsburgh campus, home to the university’s central administration and around 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Cochlear is a medical device company that designs, manufactures, and supplies the Nucleus cochlear implant, the Hybrid electro-acoustic implant, and the Baha bone conduction implant.
The University of Pittsburgh filed a patent infringement suit against Cochlear, the Sydney-based company. The devices in conflict are the Nucleus 6 and 7 implants, which include a wireless sound processor.
The University of Pittsburgh claimed ownership of the patent for the wireless technologies which was filed in 2008 and demanded that Cochlear pay damages and royalties for the stealing and utilizing of patent-protected products without consulting them.
Right back at the claim, Cochlear filed a counterclaim, claiming that it invented the technology first and had products based on it on the market prior to the patent filing. This renders the patent null and void.
According to Dr. Simon Potter, a principal at Spruson & Ferguson in Sydney, a favorable outcome on Cochlear’s side is highly unlikely as this company has recently lost another major patent battle. In the patent case between Cochlear and the 2 major companies, Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research and Advanced Bionics, Cochlear has lost and has to pay US$268 million in damages awarded to these two US competitors in 2020.
Both companies have patents on implantable cochlear stimulators. Cochlear filed an appeal to reduce the damages, but the court denied it.
It is worth noting, according to Potter, that when the university first accused the biotech firm of patent infringement in 2021, the latter stated that none of its products infringe the patent’s claims. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Cochlear’s infringement claim “relies on a flawed reading of its patent that improperly attempts to ensnare technology far afield of anything the patent actually covers.”
“Although it is not clear whether Cochlear was already aware of the University of Pittsburgh patent and indeed the subject patent of the earlier 2020 litigation, it would be interesting to have insight into the internal mechanics of Cochlear’s clearance searching and freedom to operate assessment procedures in what is a very crowded technical area, given the significant fallout from the 2020 litigation and the potential for a similarly damaging outcome in the present circumstances,” Potter added.
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