Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest seller of health-care products, didn’t infringe a doctor’s patent on heart devices, a U.S. appeals court ruled today in throwing out a $482 million jury verdict the man won.
The trial court erred in its interpretation of the patent owned by Bruce Saffran and, under the correct definition of key terms, J&J’s Cordis unit wasn’t using his invention, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said today in an opinion posted on its website.
Saffran’s patent deals with ways to treat injured tissue with the use of a permeable barrier. While Saffran’s invention focused on broken bones, he argued the invention also was used in stents, the tiny mesh tubes that prop open heart arteries after they are cleared of fat. The Cordis stents, sold under the name Cypher, were a metallic mesh with a coating of the drug sirolimus that slows the regrowth of plaque.
The January 2011 jury award was the ninth-largest patent verdict in U.S. history, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. With more than $111 million in interest, the total amount J&J was told to pay reached $593.4 million.
The appeal focused in part on whether Saffran’s invention was limited to a continuous sheet that contains the bone fragments and can be configured to deliver a drug to the treatment site. J&J said that its drug-coated stents weren’t made that way.
The drug layer “is akin to paint on a chain-link fence, not a continuous sheet wrapped around the mesh, and open holes remain between the struts of the accused devices,” the three-judge panel ruled.
J&J, the New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company that pioneered the market for heart stents, exited the business in 2011 after losing ground to Boston Scientific Corp. and Abbott Laboratories and amid falling prices for the devices.
Saffran had won a $431 million verdict against Boston Scientific over the same patent, which later increased to $501 million with interest. That case was later settled for about $50 million. Abbott, which had also been sued by Saffran, filed court papers urging the federal circuit court to overturn the J&J verdict. In its filing, Abbott said that if the appeals court adopted the patent interpretations requested by Cordis, “Saffran’s infringement case cannot proceed against Abbott.”
The case is Bruce Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson, 12-1043, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower court case is Saffran v. Johnson & Johnson, 07cv451, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).