MDI lab dismissed from one patent lawsuit, settles another

A technician holds a laboratory mouse in 2006 at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
A technician holds a laboratory mouse in 2006 at the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor.
Posted Aug. 22, 2011, at 6:46 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Twice in its 82-year history, The Jackson Laboratory has faced patent infringement lawsuits.

Both lawsuits recently were resolved without any adverse impact on the lab or its work, according to lab representatives.

Jackson Lab was sued in late 2008 by The Central Institute for Experimental Animals, a Japanese firm that claimed the Bar Harbor-based laboratory was producing and marketing a strain of immunodeficient mouse that has been patented and trademarked in the United States by CIEA. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in northern California, the jurisdiction of which includes the lab’s West Coast branch in Sacramento, where it employs more than 100 people.

The other lawsuit, filed in early 2010 by Sarasota, Fla.-based Alzheimer’s Institute of America, accused Jackson Lab and other research institutions of improperly infringing upon AIA’s patent covering a DNA mutation linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Jackson Lab allegedly violated that patent by distributing mice especially bred for Alzheimer’s research — an activity that has been funded by the federal National Institutes of Health since 2003.

In a prepared statement released last week by intellectual property law firm Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C., officials said Jackson Lab was dismissed from AIA’s lawsuit after NIH retroactively granted Jackson Lab authorization and consent to distribute the strain of mouse in question. Wolf Greenfield represented the lab in both patent infringement lawsuits.

Earlier this month the director of NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, publicly indicated that federal officials took the unusual step of intervening in the lawsuit in order to provide broader access to research tools developed with federal funding, according to the law firm’s statement.

“This is great news not only for those involved in Alzheimer’s disease research, but for the entire biomedical research community,” the statement quoted Collins as saying. “At NIH, we believe that science advances most rapidly when new technologies and research tools resulting from federal funding are made available to others.”

Michael Rader, Wolf Greenfield’s lead legal counsel for Jackson Lab in both lawsuits, said in the statement it is important that federal funding benefit the wider biomedical research community, not just one research organization.

“Jackson never wavered from its dedication to overcome this threat, fighting for its right to distribute these critical mouse models,” Rader said in the statement. “We are proud to have helped Jackson resolve the [AIA] case on favorable terms.”

AIA’s legal claims against other parties, including University of Pennsylvania and several pharmaceutical companies, remain pending, according to the Wolf Greenfield statement.

The CIEA lawsuit filed in December 2008 was resolved after Jackson Lab won a favorable ruling by the federal court in California over CIEA’s patent scope, according to the law firm’s statement.

The ruling resolved “novel questions concerning the role of mouse nomenclature in patent claims,” the statement indicated, which then led to the court granting Jackson Lab summary judgment of no infringement. That, in turn, led to a settlement between CIEA and Jackson Lab.

David Einhorn, Jackson Lab’s in-house legal counsel, echoed other officials in saying that the resolutions of the lawsuits is good for the broader biomedical research community.

“We have only been involved in two patent infringement lawsuits and are pleased that both ended favorably not only for Jackson but for the global biomedical research community,” Einhorn said in the Wolf Greenfield statement.

In a separate statement, Einhorn said details of the settlement between Jackson Lab and the Japanese firm cannot be disclosed.

“The financial details are confidential, but suffice it to say that even though CIEA initially sued Jackson Lab, Jackson Lab is the beneficiary of a financial settlement,” Einhorn said.

Jackson Lab employs more than 1,200 people in Bar Harbor and is known internationally for its use of mice to conduct research on human diseases and medical conditions. Each year it produces millions of specially bred laboratory mice that are used in similar studies all over the world.

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