Antivenin Co. Fights Venom Dealer’s Claims


     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – A rattlesnake venom merchant’s defamation claims are baseless and its proposal to settle a patent review process amounts to an extortion attempt, an antivenin producer claims in court.
     BTG International Inc. sued Bioactive Laboratories and Kenneth Darnell in Eastern Pennsylvania district court on Friday for abuse of process.
     BTG manufactures the antivenin medication CroFab, which is partially made from rattlesnake venom. The company claims that Darnell, who owns venom extraction and supply company Bioactive in Alabama, retaliated against BTG after the company claimed that it used none of his venom.
     BTG has endorsed rattlesnake conservation efforts in Texas, a state with a high snake population, according to the complaint. It opposes “roundups,” which the lawsuit describes as “bloody state fairs at which rattlesnakes captured by locals sometimes by gassing (the use of noxious fumes to force snakes from their dens and into the clutches of hunters) are brought in for a bounty, milked for venom, and then usually butchered for their meat and skins.”
     Darnell opposes the conservation measures and claims that the vast majority of venom in the medical supply chain comes from such roundups, BTG claims. He also stated to the press that BTG uses roundup venom in its products, according to the complaint.
     In response, BTG first claimed that all of its venom was “produced under strict laboratory protocols,” the lawsuit states. But three years later, a member of the company disclosed that some of the venom it had purchased from a third party included roundup venom. BTG updated its venom purchase terms to preclude roundup “or any other harmful or inhumane methods of venom collection,” according to the complaint.
     Darnell accused BTG of defamation and of “stockpiling” venom and he threatened to sue the company. Instead of suing, he petitioned the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board over the validity of the CroFab patent.
     In exchange for termination of the petition, Bioactive and Darnell sought damages for defamation, a $3.5 million lump sum payment, and a supply agreement worth $5.8 million, according to BTG’s lawsuit. BTG calls their petition “meritless.”
     “Bioactive’s IPR petition is a brazen attempt to use the inter partes review process to coerce redress from BTG for defendants’ baseless defamation, slander, libel and other business tort claims, each of which is completely unrelated to the ‘414 patent challenge,” the lawsuit states, referring to BTG’s antivenin patent. “The filing of the IPR proceeding against BTG is, therefore, ‘the classic example’ of an abuse of process claim under Pennsylvania law.”
     BTG’s lawsuit claims Bioactive’s petition and proposed settlement constitutes an extortion attempt.
     “Defendants are abusing the IPR process primarily to accomplish an improper and illegitimate purpose for which it was not designed-i.e., to coerce and extort from BTG public recognition for Darnell and Bioactive’s snake venom products, payments totaling $9.35 million, and other redress,” the complaint states.
     BTG seeks damages and legal costs. It is represented by Steven Maniloff of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads LLP in Philadelphia.

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