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Becton Gets Mixed Patent Ruling in Retractable Syringe Case

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Becton, Dickinson & Co. won a partial appeal of a $5 million patent-infringement verdict that favored Retractable Technologies Inc. on technology used to protect health-care workers from accidental needle sticks.

Becton’s 3-milliliter Integra syringe doesn’t violate Retractable’s patents, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said in a decision today that reverses part of a 2009 jury verdict. The court upheld the remaining portion of the jury’s finding, that Franklin Lakes, New Jersey-based Becton’s 1-milliliter Integra product does infringe.

Becton no longer sells the smaller syringe “so there is no impact to our customers,” said Liz Ryan Sax, a spokeswoman for the company. Little Elm, Texas-based Retractable sued in June 2007, claiming Becton used its innovations without permission. The patents cover Retractable’s VanishPoint-brand syringes, which contain spring-loaded needles, according to the complaint.

Retractable said the finding will help the company in an antitrust case against Becton that is scheduled for trial in January. Retractable in that case has accused Becton of using a combination of tactics to unlawfully “suppress Retractable’s success in the market,” according to court documents.

“BD used Retractable Technology’s own patented technology to maintain their monopoly in the syringe market,” Roy Hardin, a lawyer for Retractable at Locke Lord in Dallas, said today. “If you’re monopolist in a marketplace, there are certain things you can’t do.”

One-Piece Structure

In the patent case, the federal jury in Marshall, Texas, found that both syringes infringed Retractable’s patents, and awarded $5 million as compensation. U.S. District Judge David Folsom later told Becton to stop using the technology, an order that was put on hold pending outcome of the appeal.

Retractable’s product has a feature in which pushing the plunger after the injection is complete releases the needle holder from a retaining ring so that it retracts back into the syringe body without coming into contact with a health worker, court papers show.

In finding the 3-milliliter Integra doesn’t infringe two Retractable patents, the Federal Circuit said the inventions are limited to a one-piece structure, while the Becton syringe has multiple parts.

“I understand how a perfectly competent trial judge can be persuaded by the siren song of litigation counsel to give the jury wide scope regarding what is claimed,” Circuit Judge S. Jay Plager wrote. “But it is a song to which courts should turn a deaf ear if patents are to serve the purposes for which they exist, including the obligation to make full disclosure of what is actually invented, and to claim that and nothing more.”

The case is Retractable Technologies Inc. v. Becton, Dickinson & Co., 2010-1402, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Retractable Technologies Inc. v. Becton Dickinson and Co., 07cv00250, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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