2014's most memorable med tech patent battles

In the world of medical devices, holding on to proprietary technology often means going to the trenches. The industry's top companies sue one another for patent infringement, hoping to stymie their competition and win damages that pad their bottom line. Sometimes, battles are easily won without extensive legal proceedings. But in most cases, the courtroom drama spans countless hours as devicemakers appeal to obtain a favorable verdict.

This year is no exception to the rule, as med tech giants such as Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), Medtronic ($MDT) and Boston Scientific ($BSX) faced a slew of patent battles, some of which have been years in the making. J&J's Ethicon unit warded off patent-infringement accusations from Irish device giant Covidien ($COV), fighting hard to keep its ultrasonic surgical product on the market. The device giant also scored a temporary win when Stryker ($SYK) dismissed its DePuy subsidiary from a patent-infringement suit over hip-implant technology. 

But other companies did not fare as well and fought tooth and nail to defend their devices. Medtronic and Edwards Lifesciences ($EW) waged one of the year's most noteworthy battles over a patent for the companies' competing transcatheter aortic valve replacement products. The back and forth eventually ended in a global settlement, with Medtronic forking over a one-time payment of $750 million and agreeing to pay royalties based on a percentage of sales of its CoreValve device. 

Congress also weighed in on patent litigation this year, cracking down on companies waging battles solely to collect licensing fees without actually delivering products or services based on those patents. The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade voted in July to approve legislation that would give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to levy fines for fraudulent practices and would cut down on frivolous patent litigation.

With some battles lost and others won, and more still in the works, here is a look at which companies faced the most patent pushback in 2014. And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. -- Emily Wasserman (email | Twitter)

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2014's most memorable med tech patent battles