15 Jan 2018
US medical laser firm says its French rival has been using its intellectual property without authorization.
Filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit alleges that Quantel’s products infringe US patent 7,771,417, that the company’s French and US divisions breached an earlier agreement between the parties, and infringed the registered MicroPulse trademark owned by Iridex.
According to the US firm, Quantel previously had a limited license to the patent and trademark in question, thanks to a deal signed in late 2012. But the license is said to have been terminated in early 2017 for “material breach”, while Iridex alleges that Quantel continued to use the relevant intellectual property without authorization.
Iridex CEO William Moore said the firm has invested significant resources into developing MicroPulse laser technology for treating sight-threatening eye conditions including glaucoma and retinal diseases.
The approach, based around a modulated continuous-wave source, allows tissue to cool between short laser pulses, which is said to reduce treatment risks and deliver a “tissue-sparing” treatment option.
For glaucoma, a laser trabeculoplasty procedure is used to reduce intra-ocular pressure. Iridex claims that with MicroPulse, there is no destructive, coagulative damage to the trabecular meshwork - an area of tissue located around the base of the cornea that helps to drain the aqueous humor via the front of the eye.
Moore added: “Our intellectual property and superior technology differentiate our products from conventional laser treatments. We place significant value on our successes treating these diseases with our proprietary technology, and will protect our related intellectual property rights.”
Responding to the Iridex claim within hours, Quantel’s CEO Marc Le Flohic said: “As an owner of intellectual property rights, Quantel respects the intellectual property rights of others and takes allegations of infringement seriously.”
But he added: “We do not, however, anticipate any disruption to our ongoing commercial progress as a result of Iridex’s action, which we believe is without merit. Quantel intends to vigorously defend itself against such claims.”
The patent in question, entitled “Laser system with short pulse characteristics and its methods of use”, is assigned to Iridex and dates back to August 2010.
It describes a system based around a frequency-doubled solid-state laser that is designed to result in “tissue-specific photoactivation”, without any photocoagulation damage caused to adjacent tissues, and without causing damage to the full thickness of a patient’s retina.
Pulse rise times as short as 25 microseconds and pulse durations of between 25 microseconds and 10 milliseconds are specified in the patent text, along with an output power of up to 3 W from a variety of commonly used laser crystal gain media.
Included in the Iridex court petition is a copy of promotional material for Quantel’s “Easyret” product, which is based around a 577 nm fiber laser and provides photocoagulation thanks to its close match with the peak absorption of oxyhemoglobin at that wavelength. It is marketed with the option of “MicroPulse” mode – with the trademark credited to Iridex in the material cited.
Quantel received US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval to market Easyret in July 2017, with the French firm saying at the time: "The Easyret’s ELBA fiber laser cavity delivers pure 577nm yellow wavelength in a uniform top-hat laser spot profile, making it ideal for ophthalmic applications."
On the same day that it filed the lawsuit, Iridex released preliminary financial results for the fiscal quarter and year ending in December 2017. It said that annual sales would now come in at just over $42.3 million, slightly below the range of between $43 million and $46 million previously indicated.
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