Varian wins partial victory in radiation device patent case

WASHINGTON, April 10 Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:00pm EDT

WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - Medical device company Varian Medical Systems Inc won a partial victory in a patent fight with the University of Pittsburgh on Thursday, when an appeals court disagreed with a lower court's multimillion-dollar damages award.

A U.S. district court in Pennsylvania had found Varian infringed a patent owned by the university.

The court first awarded $37 million to the university and then increased that amount to more than $100 million because it found the infringement to be willful, among other factors. The court also awarded $9.2 million in legal fees.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the earlier finding that the infringement was willful on one portion of the patent, also called a claim. A court can triple damages if infringement is found to be willful.

The appeals court also questioned the district court's reading of a second claim. It vacated the damages award based on that claim and sent it back to the lower court for reconsideration.

The court let stand the damages award for a third claim.

The technology in question is intended to improve radiation therapy for cancer by reducing damage to healthy tissue during treatment by synchronizing the radiation beam with the patient's breathing or other slight movements.

Shares of Varian were down 2.75 percent at $81.68 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Neither Varian nor the University of Pittsburgh responded to requests for comment.

The case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is University of Pittsburgh v Varian Medical Systems, Inc and is No. 2012-1575 (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Diane Craft)