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Weil Wins Appeal for Illumina Protecting Cutting-Edge DNA Sequencing Technology

On February 1, 2021, Weil secured another significant Federal Circuit victory for longtime biotech client Illumina in a patent infringement dispute with Columbia University, when the appellate panel upheld the invalidation of five Columbia University patents by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The dispute involves a premier approach to DNA sequencing known as sequencing-by-synthesis. Illumina’s sequencers help us understand the human genome and are widely used for medical diagnosis such as cancer testing.

Columbia originally asserted the invalidated patents in 2017 in Delaware federal court. Illumina successfully challenged the patents before the PTAB, which, in two split decisions handed down in 2019, held that the five patents were obvious based on prior art. Columbia then appealed to the Federal Circuit, where Weil helped to preserve Illumina’s win.

The unanimous appellate court, agreeing with Weil, noted that Columbia’s arguments were “unpersuasive,” and that the PTAB decisions were “supported by substantial evidence and were not erroneous as a matter of law.” This victory follows a previous Federal Circuit win that Weil delivered on behalf of Illumina in 2015, which invalidated three other Columbia DNA sequencing patents. 

The Weil team included Patent Litigation and Life Sciences practices Co-Head Ed Reines, who argued the appeal, Patent Litigation partner Derek Walter, and Appellate associate Brian Liegel.