Medtech giant Medtronic has successfully seen two patents for its sacral neuromodulation (SNM) upheld before US courts, opening the way for a lawsuit against bladder and bowel company Axonics.

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), part of US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has upheld the two Medtronic patents as part of a patent infringement lawsuit brought by the company against the California-based Axonics, who sought to invalidate Medtronic’s claim over the technology. As a result, a full infringement lawsuit against Axonics can now continue.

The dispute revolves around US patents No. 8738148 and No. 8457758, both about how the company’s SNM devices such as its InterStim line are charged. The appeal follows a previous attempt by Axonics to invalidate both Medtronic patents before the PTO after it was sued by Medtronic, but with both the original attempt and the appeal rejected, Axonics can no longer continue proceedings.

Along with this, Medtronic filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) on 24 February 2024 in a bid to block Axonics from selling and importing products thought to infringe on Medtronic patents.

Medtronic’s pelvic health president Mira Sahney said: “It’s now past time for Axonics to stand up in a court of law and take responsibility for its unauthorised use and infringement of Medtronic’s intellectual property.

“We respect the intellectual property of innovators, and our patent system exists to benefit society by encouraging the kind of innovation that Medtronic invests in. We are pleased with the PTAB’s decision, and we are confident that the evidence at trial will show that Axonics improperly used and profited from Medtronic’s patented technology.”

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Earlier this year, Boston Scientific signed an agreement to acquire Axonics in a deal valued at approximately $3.7bn, with Axonics reporting a net revenue of around $366m in 2023, up 34% from the previous year. In 2019, a GlobalData Healthcare analysis identified Axonics as one of the new emerging players in the SNM market.

Responding to Medtronic’s complaint to the ITC, Axonics CEO Raymond Cohen said: “We believe Medtronic’s claims are designed to stifle competition, limit patient and physician choice, and protect the incumbent’s market position.

“For over 20 years, Medtronic took advantage of its monopoly position in this category and chose not to innovate, develop full-body MRI compatible sacral neuromodulation devices, or invest in creating public awareness of advanced therapies for people with incontinence. Axonics took a different path and created a renaissance in sacral neuromodulation therapy by developing long-lived implantable devices and introducing full-body MRI compatibility in this category.

“Axonics refuses to be intimidated by Medtronic and intends to defend itself vigorously. In the meantime, we remain focused on innovation for improving the lives of patients with incontinence and continuing on our path to market leadership.”

Elsewhere in the field of sacral neuromodulation technology, Boomerang Medical has completed stage two enrolment of a pilot study investigating the use of the technology in treating inflammatory bowel disease.