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Siemens files suit against Fonarto head off MR patent litigation


Fonar has notified other vendors of its claimsFonar's assertion of MR patent claims is threatening to expandinto a legal imbroglio involving the entire MR industry. SiemensMedical Systems became the latest vendor to be dragged into

Fonar has notified other vendors of its claims

Fonar's assertion of MR patent claims is threatening to expandinto a legal imbroglio involving the entire MR industry. SiemensMedical Systems became the latest vendor to be dragged into thecontroversy when it filed a federal lawsuit last week seekingto have Fonar's patent claims declared invalid. Siemens will probablynot be the last vendor to take such action, as Fonar has notifiedother MR manufacturers that it considers their products to beinfringing on its patents.

Fonar, of Melville, NY, began the dispute in 1992 when it filedsuit against GE Medical Systems, Hitachi Ltd. and two imagingcenters. It claimed that the defendants were infringing on fourbasic MR patents invented by Fonar founder Raymond Damadian. Theyinclude the world's first MR patent, entitled "Apparatusand method for detecting cancer in tissue," and a patentfor multi-angle-oblique MRI.

Fonar settled with Hitachi last month in an agreement thatincluded an unspecified cash payment to Fonar (SCAN 4/26/95).Fonar has gone forward with its lawsuit against GE and is claiming$300 million in damages.

Fonar believes its patents are broad and the company has notifiedother MR vendors that it believes they are infringing, accordingto Fonar counsel Ronald Schutz of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresiof Minneapolis. Siemens was one of those companies, and last weekthe Iselin, NJ, vendor filed suit in U.S. District Court in Wilmington,DE, asking that Fonar's patents be declared invalid and/or thatSiemens be declared not in violation of the patents. Siemens didnot sue Fonar on any of Siemens' patents.

"Fonar had not begun any substantial legal activitiesagainst Siemens regarding its MRI patents," a Fonar spokespersonsaid. "This indicates that Siemens believes it is now vulnerableand that it will also be sued for patent infringement by Fonaror it wouldn't have responded with this defensive action."

Siemens executives were not available for comment. Fonar hasnot yet decided how to respond to Siemens' lawsuit, accordingto Schutz.

Fonar's jury trial against GE began April 25. The trial hasbeen bifurcated, with a liability trial taking place first, tobe followed by a damages trial if necessary, Schutz said. Thetrial's first week featured Damadian taking the witness standfor two days. He testified on the multi-angle-oblique patent andprovided general background information about Fonar.

The trial adjourned for the week of May 1 due to a conflictin the judge's schedule, Schutz said. The trial was scheduledto resume May 8 with GE's cross-examination of Fonar employeeBob Wolf, one of the inventors of the multi-angle-oblique patent.

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