J&J's DePuy Synthes found guilty of infringing orthopedic device patent in $20M verdict

DePuy Synthes faces a fine of $20 million after a jury found Johnson & Johnson’s orthopedics and neurosurgery device business guilty of infringing a patent belonging to a Utah-based orthopedic surgeon.

In the lawsuit—originally filed in October 2020—Gary Lynn Rasmussen, M.D., accused DePuy of having used two of his patented inventions “without his permission or compensation.” His mechanisms were allegedly integrated into DePuy’s Attune Knee system for replacement procedures.

The two patents in question comprise a device that can maintain tension in the knee joint ligaments and help adjust the joint’s alignment throughout an arthroplasty procedure. Rasmussen’s claim asserted that the Attune system’s Balanced Sizer device relies on his technology to adjust tension in the ligaments of a knee joint.

Rasmussen alleged that DePuy has been aware of his patents for the technology since at least 2009, based on the fact that the J&J subsidiary used his documentation to prosecute its own patent applications dating back at least to that year.

The surgeon also detailed his efforts between 2012 and 2014 to license the technology to DePuy, during which time he said he met with representatives from the company, supplied them with presentations and patent information about his technology and even participated in J&J-sponsored panel events.

The licensing discussions “broke down” in 2014 before they could come to an agreement, according to the complaint, after which Rasmussen said DePuy continued to rely on his patent filings to enforce their own.

The surgeon accused DePuy of multiple counts of willful patent infringement. The violation was both direct and indirect, he claimed, as DePuy was not only “making, using, selling, offering for sale and/or importing” the Balanced Sizer device but inducing customers and other third parties to use it, too, and providing them with “instructions, documentation, tutorials, marketing materials and the like” regarding the device.

In a verdict handed down this week, a jury in Massachusetts district court found DePuy guilty of infringing one of the two asserted patents through the sales of its Balanced Sizer device, according to court documents. Meanwhile, DePuy’s countering claims that Rasmussen’s patents are invalid were denied on all counts.

As a result, the jurors recommended a fine of $20 million for the devicemaker. However, they also concluded that DePuy’s infringement of Rasmussen’s patent was willful, a finding that typically gives a judge leeway to further increase the recommended penalty.

In a statement sent to Fierce Medtech, DePuy said, "While we are pleased that the jury found that the Balanced Sizer and Balancing Blocks do not willfully infringe the '583 patent, we respectfully disagree with their findings regarding the Balanced Sizer and '180 patent, and we will be seeking post-trial relief from the trial court immediately, and, if necessary, we will file an appeal."

Editor's note: This article was updated to include a statement from DePuy Synthes.