Becton Dickinson & Co. (NYSE:BDX) lost its bid to toss anti-trust claims stemming from patent infringement in a lawsuit filed by Retractable Technologies (NYSE:RVP), after a federal judge ruled that infringement could constitute anti-competitive behavior.
The case, which went before a Texas jury yesterday, is the latest in a long-running patent battle between the companies, which began when Texas-based Retractable Technologies sued on allegations that Becton’s Integra syringes infringe patents covering its competing VanishPoint devices.
It’s the 1st time that both antitrust and false advertising claims will be heard in court, as previous judges ruled to split the claims into separate lawsuits.
BD moved to toss the case, arguing that prior case law shows that no judge has ever ruled patent infringement to be anti-competitive.
But Judge Leonard Davis of the U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas denied the motion, ruling that just because it’s never happened before doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen now.
"Even if this case did support BD’s premise (that the absence of an affirmative statement that patent infringement could serve as anti-competitive conduct means that it could never do so), such a holding would be directly contrary to well-established Supreme Court precedent," Davis wrote, according to court documents. "The only binding precedent that BD urges the court to apply here pertains to whether patent infringement may suffice as an antitrust injury, not whether patent infringement may comprise anti-competitive conduct, if there were some other injury to competition." [emphasis his]
BD and Retractable Technologies have been after each other in court since 2007. A federal appeals court decided in July 2011 to reverse a jury’s finding that both the 1m and 3ml sizes of the BD syringe infringed the Retractable patent, ruling that only the smaller size trespassed on the intellectual property. That same court later denied Retractable’s bid for a re-hearing, setting the stage for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The high court also refused to hear Retractable’s appeal, prompting the current lawsuit. Last month Davis dismissed BD’s move to nix the trial, finding sufficient evidence "suggesting that [Becton’s] contracts have anti-competitive effects."
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