Sonosite adds to lawsuit against GE

BOTHELL SonoSite Inc. has added to its lawsuit against General Electric, claiming its giant rival has infringed on four patents held by the Bothell-based maker of portable ultrasound machines.

The amendment to the lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

SonoSite’s legal action against GE actually is a countersuit. GE fired the first shot in May, claiming SonoSite has infringed on five of its patents. The suit was filed in Wisconsin, as that’s where GE’s health care division is located. That court also has ranked high in studies of the most favorable places for companies to win intellectual property cases.

SonoSite filed its countersuit in July, alleging GE was infringing on two of its patents and rebutting arguments about its own alleged infringements.

The amendment to the countersuit adds two more charges of patent infringement alleged by SonoSite.

“We continue to belive that GE’s claims of patent infringement are without merit and we have now expanded our claims against them,” Kevin Goodwin, SonoSite’s chief executive officer, said Monday in a written statement. “We will continue to vigourously assert our rights.”

The counterclaim seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction against future patent infringements by GE. Those are the same remedies sought by GE in its suit. The two companies are tentatively scheduled to go to trial in June 2008, SonoSite spokeswoman Anne Bugge added.

Not so coincidentally, SonoSite and GE are the two largest competitors in the hand-carried ultrasound industry.

Additionally, SonoSite earlier this year filed an infringement lawsuit against Zonare Medical Systems Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., which also makes compact ultrasound machines. Zonare has countersued, and the case is awaiting a trial scheduled for late 2008.

SonoSite has enjoyed growing ultrasound sales and been making acquisitions lately. While the lawsuits could be a distraction going forward, they’re not yet a big risk for hurting the Bothell company’s growth, said Robert Toomey, chief equity strategist for EK Riley Advisors Inc. in Seattle.

“Nobody’s at that stage of worry yet,” Toomey said, adding that companies such as SonoSite budget for legal tussles such as these. “Patent litigation is just part of the business.”

Shares of SonoSite ended trading Monday at $29.10, down four cents.

Reporter Eric Fetters: 425-339-3453 or

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