NEWS OF 1999
NEWS OF 1998
(Dec. 22, 1998)
- October 22, 1998 -
NIDEK wins U.K. excimer laser patents battles with VISX
LONDON, Monday, Oct. 19: In a landmark legal victory which may have profound implications for the U.S. and other excimer laser markets, NIDEK defeated VISX's attempts to enforce two of VISX's principal patents against NIDEK's EC-5000 excimer laser system in the U.K. VISX's attempts to obtain an injunction against NIDEK, its distributor and a clinic to prevent importation and use in the UK of NIDEK's system therefore failed.
Justice Neuberger, the UK Patents Court Judge presiding in the High Court of Justice found NIDEK's EC-5000 excimer laser did not infringe VISX's UK European Patent No. 0,151,869 for scanning beam technology. He also found that if the patent had been broad enough to cover NIDEK's system, it would have been invalid and unenforceable. Finally, he found that VISX's UK European Patent No. 0,207,648 for masking technology was invalid because it was "obvious" in the light of prior art publications and an oral prior disclosure made at a medical meeting. As a result of these findings, VISX was required by the judge to pay a significant proportion of NIDEK's legal costs.
NIDEK came close to invalidating the VISX scanning technology patent completely on the basis of some evidence the judge described as "powerful". However, the judge upheld the patent with what he said was some "hesitation" and despite his opinion that one of VISX's witnesses, Dr. Trokel, was not a "wholly reliable witness".
NIDEK hopes to achieve similar success in other litigation brought against it by VISX in France (where the patent law is similar to that in the UK) and in Canada. This defeat in the UK will offer VISX little encouragement.
Hideo Ozawa, president of NIDEK Co., Ltd., stated "We are very pleased to have our contentions of non-infringement vindicated by the U.K. courts. Although we did not seek this expensive and time-consuming legal confrontation, NIDEK appreciates the court's confirmation of our position and the non-infringing nature of our instrument's technology. NIDEK is prepared to continue its opposition to per-procedure user fees and patent infringement claims, as the need arises."
NIDEK Co., Ltd. is a 27-year-old privately held company located in Japan, with subsidiary offices in the United States and France. NIDEK manufactures intraocular lenses and surgical & diagnostic instrumentation for eyecare specialists in over 90 countries. The Company's EC-5000 excimer laser system -- nearing completion of U.S. clinical trials --has been in development since 1985. Excimer lasers are used to correct refractive errors by altering the shape and optical power of the cornea, in a procedure performed on an out-patient basis. Approximately 400 EC-5000 instruments are currently in use throughout the world.
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