Illumina hits Guardant with lawsuit over trade secrets

2020 07 22 15 50 6516 Lawsuit 400

Illumina has hit Guardant Health with a lawsuit alleging Guardant and its founders Helmy Eltoukhy and AmirAli Talasaz misappropriated Illumina's trade secrets and breached a contract over DNA sequencing technology for diagnostics.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the lawsuit alleges that Eltoukhy and Talasaz had access to Illumina trade secrets while they were employed with Illumina up through 2013 and 2012, respectively. The lawsuit charges that the two incorporated Guardant in 2011 while still employed by Illumina and used Illumina technology as the basis for their new company.

The technology at issue includes "a sequencing device for processing minimally invasive blood draws, including analyzing DNA, with molecular barcodes, for cancer diagnostics and other applications," according to the complaint. The lawsuit accuses Eltoukhy of acquiring information while employed at Illumina that he intended to use for Guardant.

"The information that Eltoukhy received reflected years of novel work by Illumina personnel, including valuable methods and data that Illumina personnel had created, that were not publicly known, and that were subject to reasonable efforts by Illumina to maintain as confidential," the complaint states.

Guardant subsequently received a number of patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the technology. The complaint alleges that the patents were improperly assigned to Guardant rather than Illumina.

In response, Guardant accused Illumina of trying to suppress competition in the market. According to John Saia, Guardant's senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, the lawsuit is frivolous, and the ownership and authorship of intellectual property is "the backbone" of Guardant's work.

Saia also said the company believes the lawsuit is in retaliation to its registered concerns about the "antitrust implications" of Illumina's acquisition of Grail.

However, Guardant's long-term supply agreement with Illumina will remain in force, Saia added.

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