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CARDIAC STENTS U.S. Patent No. 4,739,762; 5,195,984 Issued:Two main patents: one issued April 1988 to Julio Palmaz; the other March 1993 to Richard Schatz Assigned tInitially to Expandable Grafts Partnership; now held by Johnson & Johnson/Cordis Prosecuted by:Ben Tobor (now a partner at Bracewell & Patterson) Litigated by:Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler; Gregory Diskant and William Cavanaugh, lead partners Cardiac stents are revolutionary not so much for what they do — repair clogged arteries — but for how they do it. Before stents were introduced in 1994, the gold standard was open-heart surgery, a procedure that saved countless lives but subjected patients to long hospital stays, the risk of infection and long recovery times. The stent procedure, which requires just a small incision, can be done on an outpatient basis, making it far less expensive than open-heart surgery — good news if your time is as precious as Dick Cheney’s, who had a stent inserted in 2001. Palmaz’s patent covers the key invention. It envisions a narrow metal “cage” that sits on top of a balloon catheter. The balloon and cage are threaded through the artery until they come to the blockage, at which point the balloon is inflated. This also causes the metal cage to expand, pushing out plaque and opening the artery. Schatz’s patent covers a major improvement: the ability to use more than one length of stent, connected by flexible connectors. Stents have proven so popular that a number of companies have obtained patents on various improvements, leading to an even bigger number of lawsuits. Johnson & Johnson has more than 10 suits active, according to Jeffrey Lewis, a partner at New York’s Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler. Complicating matters is that while all of the cases charge infringement of the basic Palmaz-Schatz patents, no two stents look alike, so each case revolves around different nuances of the invention, or different patent claims. Johnson & Johnson won two huge verdicts in late 2000 — $324.4 million against Boston Scientific and $271.1 million against Medtronic. But the awards were set aside and new trials ordered after the judge hearing both cases changed her interpretations of the claims at issue. That decision, Lewis says, will be appealed. Alan Cohen is a free-lance writer based in New York City. His e-mail is [email protected].

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