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ALLERGAN/STAAR LEGAL BATTLE CONTINUES: STAAR'S MARCH 18 SUIT

This article was originally published in The Gray Sheet

Executive Summary

ALLERGAN/STAAR LEGAL BATTLE CONTINUES: STAAR'S MARCH 18 SUIT against Allergan alleges violations of antitrust laws including the Sherman Antitrust Act. According to a March 18 Staar release, the suit "is based on Allergan's attempt to appropriate" rights that Staar says it has to the "Bartell" patent for intraocular lens injector technology. Allergan maintains that it holds exclusive rights to the patent. However, Staar believes that a March 16 ruling by Judge Dickran Tevrizian of the United States District Court for the Central District of California "indicates that Staar may be the owner of the patent." The March 16 order is a ruling on a case filed in November 1992 by Allergan charging that Staar had infringed the Bartell patent ("The Gray Sheet" Nov. 30, 1992, p. 16). Allergan says it was assigned exclusive rights to the patent by Michael Bartell, the developer of the technology. Bartell has never worked for Allergan, but he was once an employee of Staar. Staar has argued that "contractual relationships" with Bartell provided it with ownership of the patent. In the March 16 order, the district court refused Allergan's request for a preliminary injunction of Staar due to patent infringements. The court also rejected Staar motions for summary judgment and dismissal, according to Allergan. Staar's March 18 suit, which also charges that Allergan's patent infringement suit was filed in bad faith, is the latest volley in a legal dispute between the firms that dates to 1989. In April 1989, Staar filed a suit alleging that Allergan had infringed its "Mazzocco" patent for intraocular lens technology and IOL placement methodology. That dispute was resolved in June 1990 with a cross-licensing agreement. As part of the arrangement, Allergan was to provide Staar with a proprietary silicone material for use in manufacturing IOLs. Staar began the next round of suits by filing a complaint in December 1991 that alleged Allergan was supplying Staar with defective silicone material ("The Gray Sheet" Dec. 23, 1991, In Brief). The United States District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the suit in February. Staar announced on March 8 that it intends to appeal the dismissal. In the March 18 suit, Staar charges that Allergan's "fraudulent sale" of "unmerchantable" IOL material violates antitrust laws. Staar also alleges that Allergan is selling its IOL products "at predatory levels below its costs in certain cases." Staar is seeking $30 mil. in actual damages and says recovery based on the Sherman Antitrust Act would carry treble damages. Allergan has 20 days to respond to the charges, which the firm denies.
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