The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for Guidant Corp., Indianapolis, to collect damages from St. Paul, Minn.-based device manufacturer St. Jude Medical in a dispute over implantable cardiac defibrillator patents. Justices declined to hear an appeal from St. Jude, thus upholding a federal appellate court ruling that St. Jude infringed on Guidant's patent. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the St. Jude's appeal opens the door to a new damages trial in Indianapolis. In September 2004, a Washington federal appeals court ruled that two Guidant patents were valid and that an Indiana federal judge erred when he overturned a July 2001 Indianapolis jury verdict awarding Guidant $140 million in damages, calling them "grossly excessive." The appeals court sent the case back to the district court for a new damages trial, but St. Jude Medical appealed to the Supreme Court. Guidant originally filed the suit in November 1996, alleging St. Jude had infringed on four of its patients. Two of those claims were later dropped or dismissed.
Guidant is the second-largest producer of implantable cardiac defibrillators after Minneapolis-based Medtronic. In April Guidant shareholders approved the company's $25.4 billion buyout by New Brunswick, N.J.-based Johnson & Johnson. The pending deal still requires approval by antitrust regulators in the U.S. and Europe. "This is simply another step in the judicial process," said St. Jude spokeswoman Angela Craig, who said the company would not comment further on the legal development. Guidant spokesman Steven Tragash said the company does not comment on pending litigation. -- by Mark Taylor