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Sonendo Sues Biolase Over Laser Dental Technology

Alleges Patent Theft From Acquired Co.

Sonendo Inc. is chomping down on what it considers intellectual theft by a neighboring dental equipment maker.

The Laguna Hills-based maker of equipment to treat root canals (NYSE: SONX) is suing Foothill Ranch’s Biolase Inc. (Nasdaq: BIOL), alleging violation of two patents.

“We feel strongly that the court will find in our favor and provide a remedy to address Biolase’s infringing activities,” Sonendo Chief Executive Bjarne Bergheim said in a Jan. 4 statement.

The dispute involves laser technologies for dental applications at a company called Pipstek, which Sonendo bought in 2017.

“We have not commercialized the Pipstek laser technologies because of our confidence that the [company’s] GentleWave System is a better, more effective option for doctors and patients than laser-driven or traditional root canal disinfection,” Bergheim said.

“However, we have made significant investments in our broad intellectual property portfolio, and we will defend those investments and options for future product development and use.”

Biolase “is evaluating the claims, but believes them to be without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter,” the company told the Business Journal last week.

Investors didn’t like the lawsuit for either company. In the trading session after the lawsuit was announced, Biolase shares fell 3.1% to 73 cents and a $5.2 million market cap, while Sonendo shares dropped 6.8% to $1.93 and a $96 million market cap.

9 Miles Apart

Biolase and Sonendo, which have headquarters about 9 miles apart, are direct competitors.

Biolase is best known for its Waterlase iPlus, which uses a combination of water and laser energy to perform most procedures that are traditionally done by drills, scalpels, and other dental instruments. The company says its technology is used in about 10,000 dental practices out of roughly 180,000 in the U.S.

Biolase CEO John Beaver, who took over in 2020, last year told the Business Journal that he’s diversified its product offerings.

The company in November reported third-quarter revenue rose 26% to $12 million; its adjusted net loss more than doubled to $5.6 million.

Paradigm Shifter

Sonendo calls its GentleWave system for root canals a “paradigm-shifting platform technology for tooth decay” that has eliminated pain in about 99.5% of its patients. In December, the company said more than 1 million patients have now been treated with GentleWave system.

The company in November reported third-quarter sales climbed 25% to $9.8 million; its net loss widened to $15.5 million from $12.7 million in the same period a year ago.

Both companies had a tough 2022 on Wall Street, with both having seen their shares fall by more than 90% from their 52-week highs.

After Sonendo went public in 2021 at an opening price of $12 each, the shares steadily declined to under $1. The shares have doubled since last September when it raised another $63 million through a private placement of common stock and pre-funded warrants.

Sonendo has far more cash and equivalents on hand, $105.6 million, compared with
Biolase, which had $9.7 million as of Sept. 30.

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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