Supreme Court to hear Stryker's appeal in Zimmer patent battle

Zimmer owes Stryker $228 million over patent infringement related to its Pulsavac Plus device.--Courtesy of Zimmer

Stryker ($SYK) notched a win in its ongoing patent battle with Zimmer Biomet Holdings ($ZBH), as the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the company's case for tripling its $70 million award from Zimmer for infringing patents for one of its orthopedic devices.

Justices will look at rulings from an appeals court that make it more difficult for a company to snag increased damages, even if a jury determines that an infringer knew about a patent and copied the invention anyway, Bloomberg reports. As a result, infringers are shielded from ponying up more money "so long as they present at least one plausible defense," Stryker said in its Supreme Court petition.

But courts have had trouble striking a balance in the cases, the Bloomberg article points out, as they try to prevent abusive lawsuits from patent holders who want quick money while making sure that disputes get resolved fairly.

The drama dates back to February 2013, when a Michigan jury found that Zimmer willfully infringed on Stryker's patents for a surgical cleaning product with its Pulsavac Plus, a device that is used to clear debris during orthopedic surgery. The jury awarded Stryker $70 million and opened the door for an increased penalty.

Months later, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker increased Stryker's award to more than $228 million and barred Zimmer from selling its Pulsavac device "given the one-sidedness of the case and the flagrancy and scope of Zimmer's infringement," Jonker said at the time.

Zimmer struck back, filing an appeal and ultimately winning a U.S. federal appeals court decision in December 2014 to reduce the damages to $70 million. The court said at the time that Zimmer presented "reasonable defenses" to Stryker's claims.

- read the Bloomberg story
- here's Stryker's petition (PDF)
- get the Reuters article

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