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US Supreme Court Denies Sequenom Petition to Review Patent Invalidation

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The US Supreme Court has denied Sequenom's petition to review decisions by lower courts that invalidated a key patent it held related to noninvasive prenatal screening.

Sequenom petitioned the Supreme Court to review the invalidity ruling in part because of an opinion by Federal Circuit Judge Richard Linn, who agreed in appeals that the patent should be found invalid because of a previous Supreme Court decision, Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, but wrote that he was "bound by the sweeping language" of that decision. And, had it not been for that decision, he wrote, there was "no reason, in policy or statute, why this breakthrough invention should be deemed patent ineligible."

Sequenom's US Patent No. 6,258,540 had been at the center of a series of lawsuits that began in 2011 and involved Sequenom, Ariosa, and Natera. In 2013, the US District Court for the Northern District of California found the '540 patent invalid, a ruling that was upheld last June.

After Sequenom petitioned the Supreme Court to clarify language about patent eligibility, a diverse range of groups including pharmaceutical companies, the Coalition for 21st Century Medicine, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, and various law professors and law associations, submitted more than 20 amicus briefs in support of Sequenom's petition.

Sequenom CEO Dirk van den Boom said in a statement issued today that the company is "disappointed that the Supreme Court denied our petition," and believes that "the Supreme Court missed an ideal opportunity to clarify patent eligibility criteria not only to protect the significant investments made by Sequenom but also by other innovative organizations to advance the standard of patient care and treatment." 

Nonetheless, the company said that the decision would have little business impact since it has been operating under the invalidity ruling since 2013. The firm also has valid and enforceable patents with similar claims as the '540 patent in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, and Australia, and earlier this month it filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Australian Federal Court against Ariosa Diagnostics, Sonic Healthcare, and Australian Clinical Labs.