updated 3/28/2006 4:53:16 PM ET 2006-03-28T21:53:16

Medical device maker Medtronic Inc. accused Guidant Corp. of infringing on patents for coronary stents on Tuesday, taking aim at one of its rivals’ key products just days before Guidant’s acquisition by Boston Scientific is set to close.

A Boston Scientific spokesman downplayed the patent infringement lawsuit, saying “We don’t expect this suit to impact the transaction.”

Stents are wire-mesh devices that prop open arteries.

Medtronic’s lawsuit claims that patents it has licensed are being violated by Guidant’s Multi-Link Vision and Xience V stents.

The Vision is Guidant’s older, bare-metal stent, while the Xience is a newer model coated with drugs aimed at keeping arteries from re-clogging. Drug-coated stents are rapidly replacing their bare-metal predecessors.

Guidant makes the stents in Ireland and the U.S. Medtronic announced the lawsuit filed in Ireland on Tuesday. It also disclosed that it accused Guidant of violating the patent with its Vision stent in a lawsuit filed Feb. 15 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The patents in question are owned by a privately held Canadian company named evYsio Medical Device and licensed to Fridley-based Medtronic.

Guidant spokesman Steve Tragash said the company doesn’t comment on litigation.

Johnson & Johnson and Boston Scientific Corp. dominate the stent market. But the rising popularity of drug-coated stents is giving Medtronic and Guidant a new chance to gain a foothold. Medtronic’s own drug-coated stent has been approved for sale in Europe but not yet in the U.S.

A.G. Edwards & Sons analyst Jan Wald said he doubted the Medtronic lawsuit would worry Boston Scientific as it gets ready to complete its $27 billion purchase of Guidant, expected to close next week. Medical device companies will increasingly go ahead and make products and figure they can sort out the licensing or pay penalties later, he said.

The lawsuit comes after a rough year for Guidant. Since June, it has recalled or issued safety advisories for about 88,000 defibrillators and more than 200,000 pacemakers which were linked to at least seven deaths.

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