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Edwards Lifesciences Suing Rival Firm

Patents: Irvine-based heart-valve maker accuses Medtronic of infringing protected technology.

March 06, 2001|From Bloomberg News

Edwards Lifesciences Corp., the top maker of replacement heart valves made of animal tissue, accused rival Medtronic Inc. of infringing a patent for a device used in heart-valve surgery.

In a suit filed last week in federal court in Delaware, Irvine-based Edwards contends that Medtronic, the No. 1 maker of heart pacemakers, is wrongly selling valve holders based on Edwards' protected technology.

Edwards says that it owns a 1989 patent for a mitral valve holder that helps position a human artificial heart valve while it's being sutured into place.

"Medtronic will continue infringing the patent, causing irreparable injury to Edwards," unless stopped by a judge, the lawsuit says.

Edwards seeks a jury trial, unspecified damages, fees and an order to stop the alleged infringement.

Officials of Medtronic, which is based in Minneapolis, did not immediately comment.

Artificial heart valves, often replacing leaky originals, can be made of synthetic materials or animal tissue, typically from a cow or pig. Edwards estimates that about 300,000 people worldwide require heart-valve operations each year.

Last month, Medtronic said revenue from its cardiac surgery business rose to $118 million for the third quarter, and sales of heart valves grew 12%--fueled by "continued surgeon acceptance" of an expanded line of tissue valves.

Edwards last month reported $77.8 million in fourth-quarter sales of cardiac surgery products and "double-digit" growth for replacement tissue valves.

Shares of Edwards, which reported $775 million in fiscal 2000 sales, fell 27 cents to $19.98. Shares of Medtronic, with $5.01 billion in fiscal 2000 sales, rose 8 cents to $49.20. Both stocks trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

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