Monday, July 31, 2006

Boston Scientific Settles With St. Jude -- or why Medical Device Litigation is Like the Battle of Verdun

The Battle of Verdun was the longest battle of WWI -- 10 months long -- and the second bloodiest -- 250,000 killed and 500,000 wounded. The German general, Erich von Falkenhayn, believed that he could defeat the French if they suffered enough casualties. He planned to attack a position from which the French could not retreat and fight a battle of attrition. After massive artillery fire and the use of poison gas, the battle ended with the German army being forced back to its starting position, with both the French general and the German commander long having since been sacked.

I was reminded of this battle when I saw, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, that medical device giants Boston Scientific and St. Jude have finally decided to stop the biggest waste of corporate resources - one case going back to 1996 - and the greatest goldmine for patent litigators since Lemelson invented the submarine patent. Famous for spending more time and money suing each other than inventing pacemakers, and, with their interlocking series of cross-country battles, basically fighting each other to a standstill, someone clearly finally got some sense.

Now, this blog is dedicated to the economic utilization of patents. And I'm never one to shy away from a good fight. But this particular sumo match did nothing for competition or innovation, as far as I can tell, and benefited no one but the lawyers.

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