PR Newswire reported today, February 28, 2007:
In mid-2006, Synergetics switched to a new and current connector design based on infringement arguments made by Iridex. The Court issued an order today that has cleared Synergetics' current connector design. This ruling is significant in two respects. It caps Synergetics' potential liability tosales primarily predating mid-2006 and it allows Synergetics to continue selling probes and related products for use on Iridex lasers with the new connector system without threat of infringement under the Court's order.
The Court has also ruled that Synergetics' old product design infringes some claims of the Iridex patent, but not all. Thus, the broad issue remaining in the case is whether Iridex is entitled to any damages for the use of the old connector design. Synergetics still has what it believes to be substantial defenses to the damage claim, including defenses which would preclude Iridex from obtaining any damages or which would at least drastically reduce the amount of damages that Iridex could obtain.
These defenses include "laches" and "estoppel." Under laches, Iridex could only obtain damages from between the time the lawsuit was filed in October 2005 on, but only for sales with the old connector design. Under estoppel, Iridex would be precluded from obtaining any damages. Synergetics believes that the Court's ruling as to the new connector design further strengthens its position under the doctrines of laches and estoppel because had Iridex brought its suit in 1999 or in the early 2000 timeframe, Synergetics could have switched to its current connector design back then and avoided further potential liability. The Court has already ruled that a trial must be held on the laches and estoppel issues because facts are in dispute.
Synergetics also disagrees with Iridex's statement that it is more likely to prevail on the issue of treble damages for willful infringement. Synergetics obtained a competent opinion of counsel prior to selling its old connector product in 1999 and still believes that the non-infringement opinion is valid. Iridex has internal emails that confirm that even it did not think that Synergetics' old connector design infringed. The fact that Iridex knew about Synergetics' old connector design but did not sue for over six years underscores that Iridex had serious doubts about its infringement claim. Given how hard fought these issues have been, Synergetics believes it highly unlikely that it could be found a willful infringer or that damages would be increased given the circumstances of this case.
See the full press release here.