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Bausch & Lomb Infringed Lens Patents, Judge Says

June 27, 2002|From Bloomberg News

Bausch & Lomb Inc. must stop making and selling its PureVision line of contact lenses because the product infringes a patent owned by Novartis' Wesley Jessen Corp., a U.S. judge ruled Wednesday.

"There is no 'sound reason' for denying Wesley Jessen's request" for an injunction, U.S. District Judge Roderick McKelvie said.

The decision is the latest chapter in the legal battle for a greater share of the $43-billion contact lens market between Rochester, N.Y.-based Bausch & Lomb and Ciba Vision Corp., a unit of Swiss drug maker Novartis that includes Wesley Jessen. The ruling means Bausch & Lomb can't make or sell PureVision lenses until at least 2005, when the patent expires, Ciba Vision said.

"This is the outcome we expected," Ciba Vision general counsel Scott Meece said. "We were quite confident in the validity of this patent and the infringement by Bausch & Lomb."

Bausch & Lomb spokeswoman Margaret Graham said the company would file an immediate appeal.

Novartis' American depositary receipts rose 36 cents to $40.10 on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Bausch & Lomb, the world's third-largest contact lens maker behind Ciba Vision and No. 1 Johnson & Johnson, fell $3.78, or 10%, to $33.30, also on the NYSE.

Wesley Jessen never made a product from the patented technology and sought no monetary damages, according to the opinion. McKelvie's ruling said it cost Bausch & Lomb $60 million to bring its product to market.

McKelvie also upheld the validity of Wesley Jessen's 1987 patent for lens plastics with increased "wettability." The decision ends just one of many lawsuits between the two companies.

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