ethicon inc., a medical device subsidiary of johnson & johnson, has retained most of its patent rights around a robot-assisted surgical tool in a ruling by the patent trial and appeal board. rival intuitive surgical inc. had challenged the patent.
the board’s decision, dated feb. 18, involved an ethicon patent for a “shiftable drive interface for robotically-controlled surgical tool,” issued in 2013. out of 28 claims in the patent, the board found only a third to be unpatentable.
Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Intuitive微信红包接龙二维码 failed to prove that a mechanical engineer with experience designing robotic surgery systems would have found it obvious to take a surgical tool with a shiftable drive system and combine it with a robotic surgery system, according to the board.
in trying to make its prior art claim, intuitive surgical used a previous patent called whitman that described a powered, rotating, and articulating surgical device for clamping, cutting and stapling tissue — as well as a patent called tierney for a robotic surgery system.
微信红包接龙二维码an engineer combining whitman and tierney, however, would have viewed the shifter as unnecessary because teirney’s four drive elements were already capable of operating whitman’s four end-effector functions, the board said.
“petitioner’s proposal in that regard appears rooted in the bias of hindsight rather than based on what a skilled artisan would have gleaned from the teachings of the prior art,” wrote the board.
however, it did agree with intuitive surgical that whitman disclosed the tool-mounting portion described in ethicon’s patent.
Ethicon dispute part of hot medtech space
Robot-assisted surgery is currently a , with Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, and others seeking to take on Intuitive Surgical, the leading company in the space. J&J’s Ethicon last year inked a $3.4 billion deal to pick up Auris Health and its FDA-cleared Monarch platform. J&J also bought the remaining stake in following what J&J described as a successful strategic collaboration with the Alphabet life sciences unit Verily.
During a January earnings call, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky hinted at a robotic surgery preview in May.
intellectual property legal disputes continue between j&j and intuitive surgical. because of its acquisition of auris, johnson & johnson inherited a patent-infringement suit that intuitive filed against auris in the u.s. district court of delaware in 2018. the district court trial is slated to begin in january 2012, j&j said in its annual report, filed feb. 18.
Editor’s note: For more medical device coverage, visit , a sibling site to The Robot Report and .