Judge Adopts Magistrate Order Dismissing a Plaintiff in Patent Case Against Medtronic and Successors

Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker of the Western District of Michigan, who is overseeing a dispute between the inventors of a patent describing a method for securing a mechanical resuscitator to patients suffering cardiac arrest, has adopted the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Sally J. Berens dismissing one of three plaintiffs for failure to obtain representation by a licensed attorney. The court’s Tuesday decision dismisses the plaintiff NewAir Manufacturing, LLC, the assignee and owner of all rights and interests in the patent-in-suit.

By way of background, the patent’s inventors allege that Physio-Control, Inc., and the companies that bought and sold it over time, infringed upon the plaintiffs’ cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) patent for nearly two decades after Medtronic misappropriated the trade secrets behind the invention. The plaintiffs’ second amended complaint, filed in July 2019, explains that the patent-in-suit “included a method for securing the Mechanical Resuscitator to the patient by means of an attachment affixed beneath the neck of the patient to both secure the Mechanical Resuscitator and position the neck such that the patient maintains an open airway during resuscitation.”

The plaintiffs claim that this method was of particular interest to Medtronic, the then-owner of Physio-Control, because at that point the medical device company did not sell an apparatus incorporating such technology. Reportedly, in 2002 and 2003, one of the plaintiff-inventors was approached by Medtronic to discuss the invention. 

Although the plaintiff allegedly mailed high-ranking Medtronic employees non-disclosure agreements marked confidential, Medtronic never executed them. Instead, through a series of communications, Medtronic reportedly used the trade secrets behind the invention to develop its own chest compression and positioning device.

The three-count complaint for patent infringement seeks approximately $96.4 million in damages. The magistrate judge has set a pre-trial scheduling and discovery management conference for March 11.

The plaintiffs are represented pro se and by Dunham & Jones, Attorneys at Law, P.C. Stryker Corporation, Jolife AB, Physio-Control International, Inc., Physio-Control Manufacturing, Inc., and Physio-Control, Inc. are represented by Lewis Thomason, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., and Miller Johnson PLLC. Medtronic is represented by Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz P.C.