Federal Circuit Overturns Noninfringement Finding In Medtronic Heart Patent Case

By Joseph Mandour on September 18, 2012

heart-128x164 Los Angeles – The Federal Circuit on Tuesday reversed a lower court’s ruling that found Medtronic Inc. did not infringe two heart implant device patents licensed to a Boston Scientific Corp. unit, saying the burden of proof was misconstrued.

The district court relied on a legally incorrect allocation of the burden of proof to find noninfringement in the limited circumstances of the case, and incorrectly construed the claim terms in question, the Federal Circuit ruled.

Medtronic filed a complaint in Delaware federal court seeking declaratory judgment of noninfringement and invalidity of Boston Scientific patent licensor Mirowski Family Ventures LLC’s U.S. Reissue Patent Numbers RE38,119 and RE39,897. The district court entered judgment of noninfringement in favor of Medtronic and judgment of validity and enforceability in favor of MFV.

MFV appealed the district court’s judgment of noninfringement and Medtronic cross appealed the district court’s claim construction on which its judgment of validity is based.

MFV did not bear the burden of proof and its expert was therefore not obliged to do more than rebut Medtronic’s contentions, the Federal Circuit ruled. The district court’s conclusion that the defendants have failed to prove literal infringement by a preponderance of the evidence cannot stand, it said.

Medtronic and the district court did not appreciate the appropriate allocation of the burden of proof and how the burden affected the parties’ conduct during discovery, according to the Federal Circuit. Accordingly, it is within the district court’s discretion on remand whether to limit Medtronic to its current interrogatory answer, or to allow Medtronic to amend its interrogatory answer to include any additional noninfringement contentions it may wish to assert, the appeals court said.

The district court erred by restricting the claimed invention to the treatment of congestive heart failure, the Federal Circuit said. It vacated the district court’s determination of no invalidity predicated on the improper claim construction.

On remand, Medtronic may press its invalidity contention based upon the correct claim construction the Federal Circuit said.

MFV developed a cardiac resynchronization therapy device which increases the heart’s efficacy by causing both the patient’s left and right ventricles to contract simultaneously as the heart beats. The device was ultimately patented in what are now the RE’119 and RE’897 Patents, both assigned to MFV. MFV exclusively licenses both patents to Boston Scientific affiliate Guidant Corp.

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Posted in: Patent Infringement