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Endpoint: Ion Trap Litigation.

The Executive Briefings in the April 15, 2001 issue of IBO discussed a German court's ruling against Thermo Electron and in favor of Bruker Daltonics regarding a patent for ion trap mass spectrometers. The announcement was yet another chapter in the two companies' patent litigation battles. It also looked to be the end-users whom lost the battle as well in that both companies' ion trap systems could not be sold in Germany.

However, on April 20, 2001, Thermo Electron announced its Thermo Finnigan division has modified three of its ion trap mass specs, the PolarisQ, LCQ Deca XP and LCQ Advantage, so as to comply with the German court's ruling by not infringing on the disputed patent. As Colin Maddix, president of Thermo Electon's Life Science sector, put it, "None of these court actions affects our ability to sell ion traps outside Germany. The systems are now available for sale in Germany.

However, the damages due to Bruker from Thermo's previous ion trap sales in Germany have yet to be determined by the court and could inflict some financial loss on Thermo, but could not be severe due to the size of the market. Further litigation regarding these patents is pending in other countries. But Thermo's ability to overcome the patent limitations in this case has been an unexpected outcome.

Bruker Daltonics struck another blow to Thermo Electron when on April 23, 2001, the US District Court in Boston ruled in favor of Bruker's summary judgment motion of noninfringment of Thermo' US patent No. 4,540,884. The court ruled that Broker's ESQUIRE MS system's resonance ejection technique does not infringe Thermo's patent. This ruling follows appeals filed by Thermo after loses before the International Trade Commission and the Federal Court of Appeals.

As Frank Laukien, president and CEO of Bruker Daltonic, put it, "This new decision does not have any immediate impact on our business" in that both companies are free to sell their systems in US. The net result of the current stage of the litigation is no change in the current competitive situation. However, the litigation holds important consequences for the future as new products could continue to raise issues surrounding these patents.
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Publication:Instrument Business Outlook
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Apr 30, 2001
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