Breast implant firm Sientra has prevailed in a lawsuit brought by competitor Mentor Worldwide over allegations that Sientra engaged in unfair business tactics by hiring more than a dozen of Mentor’s sales staff shortly after Sientra’s implants were approved in 2012.
The suit stems from a heated race among implant makers to bring new teardrop-shaped designs to market in the United States. Santa Barbara-based Sientra was the first company to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in March 2012 for the new kind of implants.
Until that time, Santa Barbara-based Mentor Worldwide, part of Johnson & Johnson, and Allergan were the only two companies selling implants in the U.S. The two incumbents had also submitted new implant designs to the FDA but had yet to receive approval.
Within days of Sientra’s FDA approval, more than a dozen members of Mentor’s sales team quit and started working for Sientra. Mentor sued the company alleging the move was anti-competitive and aimed to decimate its sales operations. Sientra officials countered that the company was increasing competition by bringing a new offering to the marketplace.
After a jury trial in Santa Barbara County Superior Court that lasted nearly eight weeks, a jury found in Sientra’s favor.
“We are very pleased with the court’s decision to reject this baseless lawsuit intended to kill legitimate fair competition by driving Sientra out of the breast implant market because we bring better product technology and solutions to plastic surgeons and patients in the U.S.,” Hani Zeini, CEO and founder of Sientra, said in a statement.
Mentor officials could not yet say whether the company planned to appeal, but told the Business Times it planned to push forward with its business and hiring plans as it rolls out its own competing teardrop-shaped implants, which were approved earlier this year.
“While obviously disappointed with the jury’s 9-3 verdict, Mentor continues to believe that pursuing legal action was the right thing to do after Sientra’s anti-competitive attempt to take 35 percent of Mentor’s sales force in a single day. Mentor is proud to continue providing employment and business opportunities in our Santa Barbara community as it has been doing for over 20 years,” David Wilson, president of Mentor Worldwide, said in a statement.
The Santa Barbara region has a long history as an epicenter of the breast implant industry. Longtime implant maker Mentor was acquired by Johnson & Johnson for $1 billion in cash in 2010. Sientra was founded in 2007 by veterans of Inamed, another successful South Coast implant maker that was acquired for $3.2 billion by Allergan, and has raised $151 million in venture capital and private equity.
Sientra, Allergan and Mentor have all received FDA approval for teardrop-shaped implants.