Illumina wins extended U.S. ban on BGI gene-sequencer sales

A new office building housing genetic research company Illumina is shown in San Diego, California, U.S., May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • Ban extends through life of Illumina patents
  • Court finds no issues with $8 million jury verdict

(Reuters) – DNA-sequencing company Illumina Inc has convinced a San Francisco judge to extend for six months a ban on Chinese rival BGI Genomics Co Ltd’s sales of competing gene-sequencing products in the United States, after a jury previously ordered BGI to pay Illumina $8 million for violating its patent rights.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick on Sunday agreed to ban BGI from beginning to sell its CoolMPS sequencers in the United States until Illumina’s patent expires in August, finding the sales would cause irreparable harm.

The court also declined BGI’s request for a new trial in the companies’ patent case, and rejected its argument that Illumina biased the jury against it by using “inflammatory language” about BGI’s ties to China.

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It also denied Illumina’s requests for enhanced damages and attorneys’ fees.

Illumina declined to comment. BGI and its attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Illumina sued BGI in California in 2019, arguing the sequencing chemistry used in BGI’s genetic-testing technology infringed its patents. The companies have also been embroiled in patent litigation in Delaware, Germany and Denmark, and BGI brought a related antitrust case against Illumina in California that is on hold.

Orrick awarded Illumina a preliminary injunction in 2020 blocking BGI’s launch of CoolMPS. On Sunday, he granted Illumina’s motion to make the injunction last through the remaining life of Illumina’s patent, but said BGI could market the products as long as it does not sell them before the end of the order.

Orrick also blocked BGI from any research and development activity that would violate Illumina’s patents before they expire.

The court as well found nothing to justify a new trial on BGI’s $8 million jury loss. It also said Illumina was entitled to prejudgment interest, in an amount to be determined later.

The case is Illumina Inc v. BGI Genomics Co Ltd, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:20-cv-01465.

For Illumina: Edward Reines of Weil, Gotshal & Manges

For BGI: David Bilsker of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

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Blake Brittain

Washington-based correspondent covering court cases, trends, and other developments in intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Previous experience at Bloomberg Law, Thomson Reuters Practical Law and work as an attorney.

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Nancie Latson