Dispute settled over contact color technology

June 15, 2005

Atlanta—CIBA Vision Corp. has reached an agreement with CooperVision to settle a patent infringement lawsuit over the color technology used to create CIBA Vision's FreshLook and CooperVision's Biomedics Colors contact lenses.

Atlanta-CIBA Vision Corp. has reached an agreement with CooperVision to settle a patent infringement lawsuit over the color technology used to create CIBA Vision's FreshLook and CooperVision's Biomedics Colors contact lenses.

In the lawsuit, filed in November 2002 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, CIBA Vision claimed Ocular Sciences Inc. violated six patents it holds for a "unique" color technology. CooperVision completed the acquisition of Ocular Sciences on Jan. 6, 2005.

Under terms of the settlement, Lake Forest, CA-based CooperVision admits that CIBA Vision's patents are valid and enforceable. CooperVision will pay CIBA Vision a royalty on the sale of Biomedics Colors lenses under a license agreement. CooperVision also will have a "limited ability to sell colored lenses under the CoverGirl mark and private labels" and will pay a royalty on these sales.

"OSI, CooperVision, and Bausch & Lomb have now each chosen to settle patent litigation with us, making sound business decisions while recognizing the substantial contribution of numerous technological developments for the benefit of consumers," Scott Meece, vice president and general counsel for CIBA Vision, said in a prepared statement.

In an interview, Meece said the lawsuit involved several different patents that protected the color patterns responsible for making the FreshLook lenses more natural than other brands. CIBA Vision obtained the patents in the Oct. 2, 2003 acquisition of Wesley Jessen or shortly thereafter based on Wesley Jessen research.

While he could not reveal sales figures, Meece said Ocular Sciences "did not do so well" with its Biomedics Colors lenses. Still, he said, the settlement strengthens its patents and demonstrates CIBA Vision's dedication to protecting them. "It clarified that other competitors are deeming the patents valid," Meece said.

A CooperVision spokesman said the settlement amount was so low it was "immaterial."

"Ocular never had any kind of success with the color lenses, so the volume was very low," said Norris Battin, vice president of investor relations and communications for CooperVision. "In effect, there won't be much financial impact because the volume was so low."

Meanwhile, CIBA Vision reported sales of silicone hydrogel contact lenses during January and February 2005 increased 161% over the same bimonthly reporting period the previous year.

The data, collected by the A.C. Nielsen Co., shows total soft contact lens sales up 12%. Silicone hydrogel lens sales during that period accounted for 19.4% of soft lens retail sales, compared with 8.3% in that period last year.

Continuous-wear silicone hydrogel lens sales rose 41% during the first two months of this year.

CIBA Vision captured 56% of the silicone hydrogel contact lens market during that period, according to the report.