Two manufacturers of needle-free connectors have sued each other over patented technology.
Alaris Medical Inc. of San Diego and Filtertek Inc. of Hebron, Ill., each seek damages and relief from the other for alleged patent infringement on products designed to protect medical and health-care workers from needle sticks, according to court records.
Increased worker injuries and concerns about transmitted diseases spurred passage last year of a federal law that has raised the stakes in an already hot marketplace for intravenous infusion devices. Processors use PET copolymers, polypropylene and silicone or thermoplastic elastomers in molding most components for needle-free connectors.
Alaris filed Dec. 5 in U.S. District Court in San Diego. Filtertek's suit, filed March 9 in U.S. District Court in Rockford, Ill., named Alaris, operating subsidiary Alaris Medical Systems Inc. of San Diego and Alaris licensor Medex Inc. of Dublin, Ohio. Each side sought a declaration that its invention does not infringe on the other firm's patent.
On May 15, Alaris amended its suit, dropping an infringement claim against Filtertek but maintaining its request for a declaration of noninfringement of the Filtertek patent. William Bopp, Alaris senior vice president and chief financial officer, declined comment June 20 on the pending legal matter.
Court filings indicate Filtertek separately approached Medex and two Alaris predecessors beginning in 1993 about partnerships to make and distribute Filtertek's needle-free connectors. Imed Corp. and Ivac Medical Systems Inc. merged in 1996 and adopted the Alaris identity in 1997. The U.S. Patent Office granted Filtertek's patent in November 1994 and reissued a relevant patent to Medex in July 1998.
The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000 requires hospitals and health-care facilities to use safety devices that automatically cover a needle tip after use to prevent transmission of disease. The legislation seeks to reduce needle-related injuries, estimated at more than 600,000 per year.
The Food and Drug Administration also is pressing for systems to replace hypodermic needles in accessing intravenous lines.
As of Feb. 28, Alaris employed 2,597, including 772 in the United States. The company lost $809,000 on 2000 sales of $378.9 million. Alaris makes subassemblies and components in Creedmoor, N.C., and assembles disposables manually at two Tijuana, Mexico, maquiladora plants.
Filtertek employed 858 as of May 31 and runs about 110 injection molding presses in Hebron and Patillas, Puerto Rico. Other manufacturing occurs in Ireland, Brazil and France. Filtertek had global sales of $83.8 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, principally from production of custom filtration products and fluid-control devices. Filtertek has operated since February 1997 as a subsidiary of Esco Technologies Inc. of St. Louis.