Roche this morning said it has settled litigation brought against it by reagents firm Promega, which could have cost the Swiss giant millions of dollars.

Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but it is likely to be pretty big numbers indeed after more than a decade of battling between the two firms.

The settlement announced by Roche this morning relates to a technique called polymerase chain reaction – an amplification technology that allows minute amounts of genetic material to be translated into billions of copies in just a few hours. The Swiss company uses the technology in a broad number of its diagnostics – for example in testing for HIV – but beyond that it has enabled many significant advances in the Human Genome Project, DNA fingerprinting and the diagnosis and monitoring of diseases including HIV and hepatitis.

In a statement, the company said: “Moving forward, we will focus on realising the potential of our patent portfolio, which contains more than 800 patents and applications related to PCR products and methods, particularly those for real-time PCR technologies.”

Most recently, in 2003, Promega said that it was suing Roche under the US False Claims Act, accusing the Swiss firm of overcharging US government agencies “for products used primarily in research, forensics, diagnostics, pharmaceutical development and healthcare.” This overcharging, it is said “diverted millions in US tax dollars that could otherwise have been used for research programmes” [[17/11/03c]].