UPDATE 1-US court upholds Edwards heart valve patent in Medtronic case

Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:59pm EST

Jan 15 (Reuters) - A U.S. jury strengthened Edwards Lifesciences Corp's efforts to protect sales of the company's transcatheter heart valve implants, by ruling that a competing product from Medtronic Inc infringes its patent.

Medtronic will appeal the award of more than $390 million in damages made by the jury in a federal court in Delaware and oppose any request for an injunction, the company said on Wednesday.

Edwards said later in the day the ruling that Medtronic willfully infringed its patent entitled it to seek increased damages of up to three times the value of the award, in addition to attorneys' fees.

It said it would move to enforce the verdict and seek a permanent injunction against Medtronic's CoreValve heart valve implant.

"This (type of prolonged dispute) is fairly uncommon," Morningstar analyst Debbie Wang said. Unlike the two rivals, most companies would have opted to cross-license their patents after such extended litigation, she said.

Wang said continuing the litigation could help Edwards protect its monopoly in the U.S. transcatheter aortic valve replacement market through 2016-2017, when some of its patents face expiry.

Edwards will lose protection in December 2017 for its U.S. Cribier transcatheter heart valve patent, which covers its most important product line - the Sapien system.

The Sapien system allows surgeons to replace diseased heart valves by threading the new valve into place through an artery via a catheter, sparing patients chest cracking and open heart surgery.

Edwards reported transcatheter heart valves sales of $172 million for its third quarter ended Sept. 30.

In 2010, a jury in the same Delaware court awarded damages to Edwards after it found that Medtronic infringed Edwards's Andersen transcatheter heart valve patent.

That decision was upheld on appeal and Medtronic made an initial payment of $84 million to Edwards last year. However, additional damages are still pending, Edwards said.

Last July, a German court also ruled that CoreValve, approved for sale in Europe, infringed Edwards's patent.

Medtronic said it expected U.S. approval for the CoreValve implant system by the end of its fiscal year ending April 2014.

The U.S. market for transcatheter aortic valve replacements is expected to reach $2 billion by 2016, BMO Capital Markets analyst Joanne Wuensch told Reuters last February.

Shares of Irvine, California-based Edwards closed up about 2 percent at $71.89 on the New York Stock Exchange. Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Medtronic's shares closed little changed at $59.30.