Zimmer patent lawsuit heads to U.S. Supreme Court

A subsidiary of Zimmer Biomet Inc. in Warsaw will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court that it should not have to pay about $248 million in a patent infringement case.

The Supreme Court justices decided on Oct. 19 to take the case but have not scheduled oral arguments.

At issue will be the circumstances under which a court can increase the damages awarded in a patent infringement lawsuit. A federal jury found Zimmer had willfully infringed and awarded Stryker $70 million in lost profits.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan awarded treble damages and allowed for Stryker to collect reasonable attorney fees. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the enhanced damages and award of attorney fees.

Stryker filed a suit against Zimmer in December 2010 for infringing on three patents related to a pulse lavage device. This surgical tool is used to clean out wounds and remove dead tissue from wound sites. Stryker developed a portable, battery-powered, hand-held version, which was an improvement over models that were bulky, had to be wheeled from one hospital room to another, and required a centralized power source.

The district court found that Zimmer’s place in the pulse lavage device market was significantly hurt by Stryker’s new device so it handed an independent contractor a copy of the tool with the instructions to “make one for us.”

Subsequently, Zimmer introduced its competing product into the market and was fairly successful in luring customers away from Stryker.  

In November 2012, the District Court granted Stryker’s motion for summary judgment of infringement on two of the patents and part of a third.•

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