Implant maker faces sanctions in patent infringement case

Implant Direct Manufacturing, a maker of dental implants, has been sanctioned for destroying evidence in a patent infringement case.

Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gallo ruled that the company destroyed evidence in a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Zest IP Holdings, a California manufacturer of overdenture abutment solutions. The judge said he would warn the jury that Implant Direct did not prevent the destruction of relevant evidence such as emails, and he ordered Implant Direct to pay Zest's legal fees in bringing the company's misconduct to the attention of the court.

Implant Direct was sued by Zest in 2010 in California Southern District Court. Zest alleged that Implant Direct, a former distributor of Zest products, infringed two of its patents covering dental attachment assembly, in addition to trademark infringement, false advertising, and unfair competition, according to a massdevice.com story.

Implant Direct told Zest in 2008 that it planned to copy Zest's locator dental implant devices, according to court documents. Zest then told Implant Direct that it considered the products to be infringing copies and the company planned to file a patent infringement lawsuit.

Zest said the notification should have triggered a litigation hold on all documents and emails from Implant Direct, but Implant Direct never put a hold in place. Relevant emails from Implant Direct officials were lost or destroyed, according to court documents.

The judge refused to grant Zest's request to impose a default judgment and an adverse jury instruction against Implant Direct, but did grant Zest's motions for adverse jury instructions.

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