In an increasingly competitive prenatal diagnostic market, staying top dog requires some finesse. The industry is poised to grow to $3.6 billion by 2019, and demand for prenatal tests is set to triple over the next 6 years, according to recent market research. So it's no surprise that diagnostic heavyweights such as Illumina ($ILMN), Sequenom ($SQNM) and Ariosa Diagnostics are each fiercely defending their piece of the pie.
In April, Illumina sued Ariosa Diagnostics for infringing its patent for noninvasive prenatal testing technology. The company's Verinata Health subsidiary filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, claiming that Ariosa Diagnostics' Harmony prenatal test infringed a patent for its own noninvasive diagnostic tool. Harmony uses a digital analysis of selected regions of DNA to more efficiently screen for Down syndrome and other fetal abnormalities, and Illumina's verifi prenatal test relies on a similar method to detect chromosome aberrations.
|Ariosa's Harmony prenatal test|
This was not the first time the companies found themselves embroiled in patent disputes. Illumina/Verinata Health previously sued Ariosa in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for infringing two of its patents, and the court issued an opinion in favor of Verinata.
But Illumina did not win every battle it waged this year. In April, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a ruling in favor of Sequenom regarding four patent-interference proceedings for proprietary DNA sequencing. Both parties use the technology for prenatal tests that screen for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, but Sequenom argued that patents it licensed from the Chinese University of Hong Kong supersede those of Verinata Health. Sequenom plans to use the decision as ammunition in its ongoing patent-infringement lawsuit with Verinata in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Ariosa faces new patent pushback from rival Illumina
Sequenom scores a blow against Illumina in prenatal Dx patent fight
Ariosa defeats Sequenom in prenatal testing patent battle