At CapeRay we have been meticulous in protecting our intellectual property (IP) rights by regularly filing for patents and celebrating the award of these patents through our weekly blogs. I met yesterday with Érik van der Vyver and Hennie Louw, our patent attorneys at Von Seidels, to discuss an application we will shortly submit to the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) offices in Europe. I mentioned to them an article that had just been published in AuntMinnie.com where it was reported there was a battle over patents in the field of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS).
In a press release, Fujifilm SonoSite announced it had filed a lawsuit against Butterfly Network, asserting that its key patents “pertaining to fundamental techniques for acquiring ultrasound images at the point of care with portable handheld systems” had been infringed. Rich Fabian, president of Fujifilm SonoSite, said his company “is committed to protecting its significant investments in resources and R&D, and in bringing novel technologies to clinicians for the ultimate benefit of improved patient care.” The seven United States patents are listed and may be accessed by clicking on the numbers: 6,901,157; 7,169,108; 7,867,168; 8,128,050; 8,360,981; 8,861,822; and 9,538,985.
A spokesperson for Butterfly Network stated: “While we do not actively comment on litigation, intellectual property is one of our core strengths and has been since Butterfly’s founding. We are proud to have a robust patent portfolio with over 800 patents issued and pending. We are aware of the lawsuit and are prepared to defend against any claims.” Among these patents are one awarded for novel ultrasound transducer probes (9,351,706), and another for methods to compress ultrasound images (9,592,032).
SonoSite has its origins in a grant by DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – to develop a handheld ultrasound scanner for use on the battefield. The company was acquired ten years ago by Japanese firm Fujifilm for almost a billion dollars. Butterfly Network was founded a decade ago by Jonathan Rothberg, inventor of DNA sequencing technology, and is now a publicly listed company (BFLY) with a market capitalisation of $850 million. Its share price has fallen from $12 to $4 over the past six months, leading to shareholder lawsuits.
Butterfly Network is now under considerable financial pressure, and it will be up to a judge who is knowledgeable in IP rights to determine if any infringement has taken place. Fujifilm, which lost a patent infringement case to Hologic in 2018, will no doubt be hoping the judge rules in its favour. The battle over patents has been joined!