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Fonar raises stakes in MRI patent battleby filing suit against Siemens and Philips


Siemens and Philips could be liable for treble damagesThe other shoe dropped last month in Fonar's ongoing campaignto assert its MRI patent claims. The Melville, NY, company filedsuit June 16 against Siemens Medical Systems of Iselin, NJ,

Siemens and Philips could be liable for treble damages

The other shoe dropped last month in Fonar's ongoing campaignto assert its MRI patent claims. The Melville, NY, company filedsuit June 16 against Siemens Medical Systems of Iselin, NJ, andPhilips Medical Systems North America of Shelton, CT, chargingthose firms with violating MRI patents held by Fonar chief executiveDr. Raymond Damadian.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the EasternDistrict of New York, the same venue in which Fonar won a $110million jury verdict over GE Medical Systems in May (SCAN 6/7/95).The victory stunned the MRI industry, which has been awaitingthe fulfillment of Fonar's promise to press its claims againstother vendors. Fonar has already settled with Hitachi.

Siemens and Philips were accused of violating two basic Fonarpatents, "Apparatus and method for detecting cancer in tissue,"and "Apparatus and method for multiple-angle-oblique MRI.

Both of these patents were at issue in the GE litigation.

Fonar is asserting two additional claims against Siemens, onefor a patent entitled "Nuclear magnetic resonance apparatusincluding permanent magnet configuration," and the otherentitled "Eddy current control in MRI.

Fonar has also added a twist to its claims, charging Siemensand Philips with "willful infringement" of its patents,an accusation that was not leveled at GE. If the defendants arefound liable for willful infringement, damages against them couldbe trebled, according to Fonar attorney Martin Lueck of Robins,Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi in Minneapolis.

The new lawsuits affirmed Fonar's willingness to sue competitorsit believes have stolen technology invented by Damadian, saidFonar co-counsel Ronald Schutz.

"Fonar cannot just sit idly by while others use technologyit pioneered," Schutz said. "A small company like Fonarlives by its technology and must have the benefits of its patents."

Fonar did not place a dollar value on the extent of the allegeddamages caused by the two companies. It claimed damages of $300million against GE based on that company's MRI sales.

The suit did not come as a surprise to Siemens. Its attorneysfiled suit in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, DE, in May toinvalidate the four patents that are central to Fonar's case (SCAN5/10/95). In a separate action in June, Siemens also sued Fonarfor allegedly violating one of its MRI patents.

"We are definitely going to fight Fonar, and we believewe will prevail," said Ted Pensiero, regional manager ofpublic relations at Siemens.

Philips officials declined to comment.

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