BOSTON - A federal judge has fined Boston Scientific Corp. more than $7 million for violating Federal Trade Commission instructions to preserve competition in the market for coronary catheters, a penalty the government called the largest ever related to an FTC order.
U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris ruled Friday that Boston Scientific "harmed" people with heart disease when it failed to fulfill its obligation to license technology to competitor Hewlett-Packard.
The suit concerned tiny devices that, when inserted into coronary arteries, reflect images that allow doctors to observe damage.
The FTC had told Boston Scientific it would only allow its purchase of CVIS, another maker of the devices, if Boston Scientific agreed to share technology with Hewlett-Packard. Saris ruled that Boston Scientific dragged its feet in providing the technology and was "a substantial contributing cause" to HP's 1998 decision to leave the field.
When HP stopped making its new catheter, the Scout, "patients with heart disease were left with technology inferior to that available in 1995," Saris wrote.
The suit had sought $35 million, Boston Scientific said. The Justice Department said the previous record civil fine for violating an FTC order was $4 million.
"We respectfully disagree with the judge," Boston Scientific spokesman Paul Donovan said Monday. "We have the right to appeal and we're currently evaluating that option."
Donovan added: "We don't believe there is any credible evidence that we harmed public health."
It's hard to fault Boston Scientific for being less than eager to share its property with a competitor whose claim depended on the FTC's initiation of force. Still, Boston Scientific can look on the bright side: the FTC only got $7 million of the $35 million it was seeking in fines.