The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has sided with Nevro, a California medical device company focused on chronic pain treatments, in the latest round of its multi-front patent dispute with Boston Scientific.
In a judgment published Thursday, a judge found a lower court erred in invalidating four Nevro patents covering high-frequency spinal cord stimulation. The company's Senza spinal cord stimulation system is a non-pharmacologic neuromodulation platform for the treatment of chronic pain.
- Nevro hailed Thursday's decision as “a significant and overwhelming victory” that will enable it to maintain exclusivity over its chronic pain treatment. However, two legal cases brought by Boston Scientific against the company, including one that alleges theft of trade secrets, are still making their way through the courts.
Boston Scientific and Nevro have been embroiled in a patent row since 2015. Since then, the rivals have each challenged patents claimed by the other in a bid to strengthen their position in a global spinal cord stimulation market that Nevro values at $2.5 billion. Some of Nevro’s legal cases against Boston Scientific, and another rival, Medtronic, have taken place in European courts, but with the U.S. accounting for around 80% of the market, it has emerged as a focal point of the dispute.
The legal path that led to the appeal judgment issued this week began in late 2016 when Nevro accused Boston Scientific of infringing patents related to its Senza system. That move backfired on Nevro in July 2018 when the court found Boston Scientific could sell its Spectra WaveWriter systems without infringing on Nevro patents.
Nevro appealed the decision, leading to this week’s appeal judgment. The appeals court evaluated whether the terms “paresthesia-free,” “configured to,” “means for generating,” and “therapy signal” are indefinite. Boston Scientific argued the terms are indefinite, undermining the validity of Nevro’s patents, and found the judge in the 2018 case receptive to its argument. However, the appeals judge took a different view.
“We conclude the district court erred in holding indefinite the claims reciting the term “configured to” and we construe “configured to” to mean “programmed to,” concluded the appeals judge, who reached similar conclusions about the other terms, delivering a boost to Nevro’s efforts to use the law to strengthen its commercial position.
Yet, other issues remain unresolved in the legal dispute between the companies. Two cases brought by Boston Scientific, including one that alleges theft of trade secrets, are still making their way through the courts, and Nevro contends further cases are possible, warning investors “competitors will take aggressive action to protect their current market position.”
Nevro competes with large companies including Abbott, Boston Scientific, and Medtronic. The competitive landscape continues to evolve with Medtronic strengthening its position earlier this year with the acquisition of Stimgenics. Medtronic’s move follows a period in which companies have blamed a slowdown in market growth on a lack of new, innovative products.