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Medtronic, Ex-PTAB Chief Settle Gay Discrimination Suit

Law360 (December 18, 2018, 8:23 PM EST) — Medtronic PLC has settled a lawsuit accusing the company of firing former Patent Trial and Appeal Board Chief Judge David Ruschke for being openly gay and having health issues during his tenure as its vascular unit’s chief patent officer.

Attorneys for both parties informed the California federal court of the deal Monday, but no details were put on the public record by the time Chief U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton dismissed the suit on Tuesday. Ruschke’s attorney, Dow W. Patten of Smith Patten, said the details are confidential and declined to comment. Representatives for Medtronic didn’t immediately respond to requests for comments and details Tuesday.

The parties will have 60 days to finalize the settlement wherein the case could be reopened. Afterward, it will be considered dismissed with prejudice.

Ruschke first sued in November 2017, claiming that the medical device giant cut him in a one-man reduction in force in 2015, despite his years of strong performance. His work during that time included a legal win sparing the company $50 million a year in royalty payments, the suit stated.

The former executive claims he was fired after a series of conflicts between him and higher-ups based on his sexuality. He also said Medtronic failed to accommodate him when he had a cardiac procedure due to an irregular heartbeat.

Medtronic fired back with counterclaims last month, telling the court that Ruschke unjustly enriched himself by failing to pay back a loan. The company said it gave Ruschke $250,000 to help him buy property on the condition that he pay back the principal, plus 89 percent of the property’s increase in value after 10 years.

Ruschke responded in late November with numerous affirmative defenses, including that Medtronic’s claim is barred by the statute of limitations, lack of standing and violation of public policy.

Ruschke became chief judge of the PTAB in May 2016. He stepped down in September to take a new job as a senior adviser for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Medtronic is represented by Laura Petroff and Raquel Mason of Winston & Strawn LLP.

Ruschke is represented by Dow Patten of Smith Patten.

The case is Ruschke v. Medtronic PLC et al., case number 4:18-cv-02515, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

–Additional reporting by Braden Campbell and Tiffany Hu. Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.

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