Specifically, Materialise contends that Nobel Biocare's manufacture of "NobelGuide" drilling template violates a Materialise U.S. patent that was issued in 1998 relating to Materialise's "SurgiGuide" techniques.
The lawsuit in the U.S. is effectively an extension of a similar action in Europe where this past August the District Court of Dusseldorf ordered Nobel Biocare AB and Nobel Biocare Deutschland GmbH to stop offering the NobelGuide drilling templates in Germany, finding that they infringed Materialise's analogous European Patent No. 0 756 735. This decision, which is preliminarily enforceable, is subject to an appeal of Nobel Biocare pending at the Dusseldorf Court of Appeals. Materialise's U.S. lawsuit is also a response to a recent Nobel Biocare civil action (also filed in the Central District Court of California) that seeks declaratory judgments that Materialise's U.S. patent is both not infringed by Nobel Biocare's products and is invalid.
Bart Swaelens, CEO of Materialise Dental, said:
With this lawsuit, we are protecting our technology. Our "SimPlant" software was launched in 1991, and was followed by our "SurgiGuide" drill guides in 1999. The introduction of NobelGuide by Nobel Biocare, on the other hand, did not occur until 2005.
Materialise Dental has been promoting Computer Guided Implantology for many years, and our products, based on extensive Research & Development, have greatly contributed to the success of the implant dentistry field.
Fortunately, the German court agreed that Nobel Biocare was infringing on our European patent, and we're now hopeful that the U.S. courts will follow suit.
The Evolution Of SurgiGuide
Dental drill guides transfer surgical implant planning to the actual surgery. The litigations in the U.S. and in Germany concern methods for making medical models, including guides for dental surgery, which involve the use of grey value images and rapid prototyping.
Over the last decade, Materialise Dental has gathered considerable clinical experience in this area. Research yielded groundbreaking results leading to the 1999 introduction of the first (bone-supported) version of SurgiGuide. This was followed in 2001 by a SurgiGuide version for zygomatic implants, in 2002 by a mucosa-supported SurgiGuide, and in 2003 by a tooth-supported SurgiGuide version. Dental experts and opinion leaders in the industry were well aware of the development of the SurgiGuide drill guides, which were presented at open conferences for clinicians.
-- April 19, 1994 - Materialise files its first patent application (in Belgium) for a "Method for Making a Perfected Medical Model on the Basis of Digital Image Information of a Part of the Body," followed in April, 1995, by patent applications in the European Patent Office and the United States. Materialise Dental subsequently releases SurgiGuide drill guides in 1999.
-- June 16, 1998 - Materialise is awarded a U.S. Patent (No. 5,768,134) for same method as above.
-- August 5, 1998 - Materialise is awarded a European Patent (No. 0.756,735) for the same method as above.
-- June 5, 2005 - Nobel Biocare launches its NobelGuide product.
-- November 23, 2006 - Materialise files a patent infringement action asserting its European patent No. 0 756 735 against Nobel Biocare in the Dusseldorf District Court (Germany).
-- June 25, 2005 - Nobel Biocare files a nullity action in Germany against the German part of EP 0 756 735 (pending)
-- July 24, 2007 - Nobel Biocare files a request to stay the German infringement action. The Dusseldorf Court denies this request.
-- August 3, 2007 - Nobel Biocare files a declaratory judgment civil action in the Central District of California seeking a declaration of patent non-infringement and/or invalidity of Materialise's U.S. patent, and a declaration of authorization to produce by a patent licensee.
-- August 14, 2007 - The District Court of Dusseldorf rules that Nobel Biocare is indeed infringing on Materialise's European patent No. 756 735 by its unauthorized use of a method for producing guides for dental implant surgery.
-- September 28, 2007 - Nobel Biocare files an appeal against the decision of the District Court of Dusseldorf with the Dusseldorf Court of Appeals (pending)
-- October 15, 2007 - Materialise files a counterclaim for U.S. patent infringement against Nobel Biocare AB and Nobel Biocare USA in the Central District Court of California.
About Materialise Dental
Materialise Dental focuses on 3D Digital Dentistry and offers a range of products and services to aid dental professionals in the treatment of their patients. Materialise Dental is the manufacturer of SimPlant and SurgiGuide internationally. SimPlant software, one of the most recognized names in computer guided surgery, is the world's first interactive 3D implant planning system for the most accurate and predictable treatment planning of dental Implants. As the industry leader, SimPlant software is available in six different languages and is utilized by thousands of clinicians all over the world.
Materialise Dental is one of the independent market leaders in dental implantology simulation software and one of the worldwide leaders in medical modeling technology. Materialise Dental provides surgeons with the most detailed and precise virtual 3D models available. Clinicians around the world use medical models and templates created by Materialise Dental software to assist them in the most complex surgical cases. Materialise Dental is a trusted partner worldwide for the largest hospitals and research institutions.
Materialise Dental is based in Leuven, Belgium, with its U.S. operation headquartered in Glen Burnie, Md.
For more information, visit www.materialisedental.com.