The UC Board of Regents filed a lawsuit against St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific Corporation for patent infringement last week, alleging that the two companies used various medical technologies without authorization from the regents, who own the patent.
Michael Lesh, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, invented a device and method for preventing atrial fibrillation, which occurs when irregular electrical impulses in the heart cause poor blood flow and erratic heart beats. Lesh applied and was granted patents for these technologies under the name of the regents.
According to the filed lawsuits, the regents sued the two companies alleging that their uses of the technology “induces others to infringe” on the patent. The lawsuits stated that the companies were aware the patents existed and even hosted live procedure demonstrations of Lesh’s technology at medical training programs.
The UC Office of the President, St. Jude Medical and the Boston Scientific Corporation all stated that they cannot comment on pending litigation.
In a previous The Daily Californian article from 2012 regarding a UC regents patent lawsuit against Facebook, Disney and Walmart, UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said this kind of litigation is not unusual for the university.
Lawsuits filed by large research institutions can be beneficial financially, according to Greg Aharonian, editor of the Internet Patent News Service. He said universities can bring in significant revenue from patent lawsuits.
Campus law professor Robert Merges referenced in an email a particular case earlier this year in which Carnegie Mellon University won a patent lawsuit against Marvell Technology in 2015, and a year later was awarded $750 million.
The university does not need to win the case in order to benefit financially, Aharonian said. He added that patent lawsuits often last years, and the first few rounds alone can cost half a million dollars — giving corporations more incentive to settle out of court.
“These kinds of cases are in the 10s (to) hundreds of millions, so it’s a worthwhile gamble,” Aharonian said.