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August 2017: Global Victory for Varian Medical Systems

August 2017

The firm recently guided our Silicon Valley-based client Varian Medical Systems to a walkaway settlement in a global patent war initiated by its primary competitor, Elekta, based in Sweden. Varian is the world’s leading developer of cancer treatment systems, with a long history of innovation going back to its pioneering history as one of the first technology companies spun out of Stanford University. In June 2015, Elekta and its licensor Beaumont Hospital sued Varian in the Eastern District of Michigan for patent infringement seeking a permanent injunction and damages. Varian hired our firm to turn the tables. We filed a complaint at the International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.; another in the District of Delaware; another in the Northern District of California; two cases in Germany; and another in the United Kingdom (in cooperation with another firm). As a result, we had several cases scheduled for trial ahead of Elekta.

Our firm landed a pivotal victory at the International Trade Commission. The dispute was tailor-made for the ITC, which is tasked with protecting American domestic industries from foreign companies that import infringing products. Varian’s patented inventions, implemented on its industry-leading radiotherapy systems designed and manufactured in the United States, represented a breakthrough in cancer therapy. Using these systems, cancer treatment sessions that previously took 20 or 30 minutes now took only 2 or 3 minutes—making cancer treatments more effective, safer, and available to more patients. The patents’ inventor received numerous awards for his pioneering work, and his published paper on the subject became the most cited paper in the history of medical physics. Most people in the field initially did not believe the inventions could work; one of Varian’s competitors offered a $250,000 reward for anyone who could show it worked better than existing treatments. This initial skepticism, followed by the resounding success of the inventions and widespread adoption by others in the industry, was a textbook demonstration of the novelty of the inventions.

At the ITC trial, this theme took center stage. Testimony of Varian’s witnesses and cross-examination of Elekta’s demonstrated that Varian’s patents revolutionized the radiotherapy field and that Elekta used these inventions in its latest equipment. In a 465-page decision dated October 27, 2016, the judge found infringement of all three patents litigated by Quinn Emanuel and recommended an exclusion order barring importation of Elekta’s infringing radiotherapy systems. After Elekta requested review of the decision, the judge reaffirmed his findings on March 31, 2017 that the patents were not invalid and that there was a violation. Less than one week later, facing potentially severe disruption to U.S. sales, Elekta agreed to settle all pending disputes with Varian, resulting in no payments exchanged between the parties and no future financial obligations.