Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP represented Ethicon, while Freeborn & Peters LLP and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP represented ESutures and the individual defendants in the case.
An Illinois federal judge has ordered law enforcement to seize counterfeit versions of Johnson & Johnson surgical devices from a distributor that’s repeatedly covered up its involvement in international fraud.
U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. granted Johnson & Johnson unit Ethicon’s request to raid three locations for the company operating as eSutures.com and seize business records and counterfeit products.
The June 16 seizure order is in Ethicon’s trademark case, which overlaps with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation probe into the Illinois company. Judge Dow has also granted Ethicon a temporary restraining order, barring eSutures from using any of the J&J unit’s marks, among other activity.
Ethicon’s June 15 suit accuses Advanced Inventory Management Inc., which operates as eSutures.com, its top officials and two employees of importing and selling dangerous counterfeit versions of Ethicon’s Surgicel, LigaClip and SecureStrap products.
According to court records, eSutures got its products from an Indian company called M/S Medserve and its owner Pritamdas Arora, which have faced their own reckoning for the counterfeiting. Between litigation in India and Florida, Ethicon was able to search Medserve’s offices and Arora’s home, which led to “incontrovertible evidence” of counterfeiting, the complaint states.
During the Florida proceedings, Ethicon subpoenaed eSutures, which was not a named party. Judge Dow said eSutures withheld documents and provided a response “calculated to conceal all evidence of its counterfeiting while portraying that it was merely a legitimate supplier.” After that “fraudulent” response, he said the company unsuccessfully attempted to sell off its supply to Medserve distributors in Dubai.
ESutures had also been in talks with a gray-market distributor over the WhatsApp messaging service, and when that distributor was named in the Florida litigation, an eSutures employee said “delete my texts and my number … from ur cell,” the judge said.
That reliance on WhatsApp was part of why Judge Dow granted the seizure.
Ethicon said eSutures was well aware of what it was doing, as Medserve had admitted that its products were counterfeit and that its business was illegal.
The complaint notes that eSutures did sell genuine Ethicon products at times, but that it obtained them in fraudulent ways. Ethicon said eSutures would pay surgery center employees to divert properly purchased and highly discounted products for eSutures to then resell.
Judge Dow’s order said the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations is investigating the counterfeiting, with Ethicon’s cooperation. The agency told Ethicon that eSutures bought SecureStrap devices from a gray market distributor in Turkey, and then sold them in the U.S., the order states.
The judge also noted that in April 2019, eSutures stopped getting the counterfeits delivered to its warehouse, and instead sent them to employee homes — which will also be searched under the seizure order.
The complaint asks for a permanent injunction and punitive damages of at least $25 million, among other financial relief.
Ethicon, Inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has manufactured surgical sutures and wound closure devices since 1887.
eSutures sells discounted, brand name sutures, suture material and endomechanicals. eSutures is a liquidator of sutures and surgical devices from Ethicon (Johnson & Johnson), Covidien-Syneture-AutoSuture, Smith & Nephew, Arthrex, and many more
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler represented Ethicon with a team including Geoffrey Potter (Picture), Aron Fischer, Timothy A. Waters, Joshua R. Stein, R. James Madigan III, and Jacqueline Lash.
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath also represented Ethicon with Bradley J. Andreozzi and Matthew M. Morrissey.
ESutures and the individual defendants are represented by Freeborn & Peters with Alexander S. Vesselinovitch and Matthew T. Connelly, and by Bradley Arant Boult Cummings with Michael S. Denniston, Gregory G. Marshall and Jack W. Selden.
Involved fees earner: Michael Denniston – Bradley; Gregory Marshall – Bradley; Jack Selden – Bradley; Bradley Andreozzi – Faegre Baker Daniels; Matthew Morrissey – Faegre Baker Daniels; Matthew Connelly – Freeborn & Peters; Alexander Vesselinovitch – Freeborn & Peters; Aron Fischer – Patterson Belknap; Jacqueline Lash – Patterson Belknap; James Madigan III – Patterson Belknap; Geoffrey Potter – Patterson Belknap; Joshua Stein – Patterson Belknap; Timothy Waters – Patterson Belknap;