Medtronic awarded $51m in patent infringement case against BrainLAB AG

Mimmeapolis, USA. A jury in the U.S. District Court in Denver has awarded $51 million to Medtronic Navigation in a longstanding dispute with BrainLAB AG, of Germany, involving four patents related to image-guided surgical techniques and devices.

Medtronic Navigation claimed that BrainLAB AG's VectorVision, Kolibri, Exactrac, and BrainSuite infringed claims of four patents held by Medtronic.

Medtronic immediately requested an injunction, but the court declined to rule on this issue at this time.

"We will always place a premium on our intellectual property and are extremely happy with the jury's decision in this case," said Pete Wehrly, Medtronic Vice President and President of Medtronic's Spinal and Navigation businesses.

BrainLAB is seeking a modification of the jury’s verdict. Final judgment on the case by the District Court is still pending.

“While today’s outcome is disappointing, we plan to appeal this decision and we are confident the facts and the law will support our position. We also believe that the royalty determined by the jury is unreasonable and completely inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial. We believe the evidence will ultimately show that there was no infringement of any kind, and that the accused surgical navigation tools are unique within the industry, and were developed by our own engineers,” said Stefan Vilsmeier, BrainLAB founder and CEO.

Details of the verdict are as follows:

  • All the accused BrainLAB products infringe the Bucholz and Roberts patents.
  • All the accused BrainLAB products infringe the Heilbrun '101 "machine vision" patent.
  • All the accused BrainLAB products, except Exactrac, infringe the Heilbrun '318 "pattern recognition" patent.
  • The jury awarded total damages of $51 million.

The Bucholz patent is known as the "freehand" patent because it frees surgeons from the need to use a cumbersome, mechanical device connected to the patient's head in order to use surgical instruments with precision. The Bucholz invention provides a surgical navigation system that could track surgical instruments in the hand of the surgeon and display the exact location of the instrument in relation to the patient's body and prior body scans.

The Roberts patent integrated pre-operative scans and contours or outlines of tumors or other structures into the view of a surgeon's microscope so they could not only see the part of the patient being operated on but also exact outlines, such as a tumor, so the surgeon could remove the unhealthy tissue without harming adjacent healthy tissue.

The Heilbrun patents, including one known as "machine vision," brought the benefit of scanning technology, CTs, and MRIs, into the operating room allowing a surgeon to operate as though with X-ray vision.

This case was filed in May 1998.




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