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Univ of Washington Sues GE for Patent Infringement

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The University of Washington in Seattle filed suit in federal court against global manufacturer General Electric Company and its subsidiary GE Healthcare for infringing on a patent held by the university for registering images from ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sources. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued the patent to the university in 2004, listing four faculty members as the inventors.

In the complaint filed on Tuesday (30 November) in the U.S. district court for western Washington in Seattle, the university says GE Healthcare’s LOGIQ E9 general imaging system makes unauthorized use of the patented technology, from which the company profits, and thus the university suffers losses in revenues. The complaint says that the university offered to license the technology to GE, but the company declined.

The technology described in the August 2004 patent interactively integrates two-dimensional ultrasound and three-dimensional magnetic resonance images. The patent covers sensors, transformational algorithms, and calibration procedures. The suit notes, “One application where this technology can be vitally important is neurosurgery, as it enables accurate guidance and localization of the surgical tool within the brain.”

The university seeks compensatory damages, including interests and costs, in amounts no less than “a reasonable royalty.” The university also seeks a judgment that GE’s infringement was “willful and deliberate,” which the suit says would entitle the university to triple damages. And the complaint asks for the court to issue a permanent injunction against further infringements.

The business Web site Xconomy, reporting on this story yesterday, said that GE Healthcare’s LOGIQ E9 system has been a winner for the company, enabling it to expand it’s share of the ultrasound market from 10 percent in 2007 to 27 percent in 2009. Xconomy said the ultrasound market is worth some $1.2 billion.

Norm Arkans, the university’s associate vice president of media relations and communications, tells Science Business in an e-mail that the institution “has a responsibility to protect the intellectual property that emerges from the research and discovery of its faculty, and there is an orderly process in this country for doing so that includes securing patents on discoveries with commercial potential.”

A spokesperson for GE Healthcare told Xconomy that GE Healthcare, as a matter of policy, does not comment on pending lawsuits.

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