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Safety syringe maker wins $113 million judgment

By: Jeremy Carroll

September 25, 2013

A jury awarded Retractable Technologies Inc. more than $113 million after it determined a competitor attempted to obtain a monopoly in the plastic safety syringe market.

Retractable Technologies sued Becton, Dickinson and Co. (BD) in 2007, saying the manufacturer of medical devices had violated the company’s patents for a retractable syringe, created a monopoly on the market and used anticompetitive tactics to push out competition.

A jury dismissed most of the counts, including claims that BD had established a monopoly on the market, but agreed that the company did engage in anticompetitive conduct with the intent to acquire and maintain a monopoly in regards to safety syringes.

The jury also said BD engaged in false advertising under the Lanham Act. The judge in the case will rule on if those specific items deserve a financial payment as well.

“The company is very pleased with the verdict, and believes that it is a step toward opening the market to its innovative products,” said Retractable Technologies attorney Roy Hardin.

BD vowed to appeal the ruling.

“We’re disappointed with the portion of the verdict that favored [Retractable Technologies], and we believe this aspect of the verdict was erroneous,” said Jeffrey Sherman, senior vice president and general counsel, in a statement. “We will file an appeal at the earliest opportunity.”

BD told investors it would record a pretax charge of approximately $340 million (approximately $211 million after taxes and an estimated $1.06 per diluted share) in its 2013 fiscal fourth quarter results, because of the verdict.

In its original complaint, Retractable Technologies called BD the “nation’s dominate maker and seller of disposal syringes.”

Retractable Technologies said it invented a syringe that automatically retracted the needle after the injection is given and before it is withdrawn from the patient, eliminating concerns of health care workers accidently sticking themselves with the needle.

The VanishPoint syringe system is made of plastic and is spring-loaded.

Several years after that product was on the market, BD introduced the Integra syringe, which operated in a similar fashion as the VanishPoint syringe, Retractable Technologies alleged.

Retractable Technologies said BD employed various forms of exclusionary contracts with health care facilities in order to dominate the market. Under the contracts, facilities would be required to maintain a certain level of purchases through bundling of items, so they would not able to stray from one product, even if they could get it cheaper elsewhere, the complaint alleged.

Retractable Technologies also claimed BD caused or induced trade shows to bar and exclude Retractable’s sales staff from entering and demonstrating their products.

“For example, Retractable has been barred from one or more trade shows, even though the purpose of the shows was to demonstrate available safety technology to medical staff,” the complaint alleged. “Hospital and trade show personnel have explained the exclusion of Retractable’s sales personnel by saying their facility is under contract with BD, exclusive to BD, or standardized with BD.”

Retractable Technologies alleged that BD labeled several of their needle products as “safety” or “safe” even though they were no safer than traditional needles. That point is important because health care facilities are often willing to pay a higher price for “safety” products, which are sold in a separate sub-market of products.

The case is expected to be back in Texas District Court on Dec. 12.