Patent protection pays

Respironics Inc. likely is breathing easier now that a patent dispute related to its bi-level technology has been settled in its favor.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, but as part of the settlement, Respironics says, AirSep Corp. of Buffalo, N.Y., has agreed to a final court order prohibiting it from manufacturing, distributing or offering for sale bi-level sleep therapy products in the United States.

In November 1997, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a ruling that granted Respironics a preliminary injunction in its patent infringement suit against AirSep, which prevented it from manufacturing or selling its device in the United States. The settlement makes the court’s prior injunctive relief permanent.

Respironics is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of technologically advanced medical devices for use in the home, hospital and alternative care settings.

The settlement which includes an unspecified amount in damages and legal fees, protects a major portion of Respironics’ intellectual property in the bi-level area. Through considerable investments in research and development, Respironics introduced its proprietary bi-level technology in 1989. Since then, bi-level devices have become one of the primary treatment options for patients with obstructive sleep apnea.

Any other company thinking about horning in on Respironics’ territory should be wary, according to the medical products manufacturer. The company is vowing to remain vigilant in its stance to protect its proprietary technology. Respironics says it will protect its patent rights against infringement in the future as well. Says Dennis Meteny, president: “Although settlement is always preferable to the expense of litigation, Respironics intends to aggressively protect its proprietary intellectual property incorporated in its bi-level systems.”