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A U.S. federal court has denied an injunction filed by Siemens Medical Solutions (Malvern, Pennsylvania) to stop Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics (Courbevoie, France) from marketing and distributing advanced crystals that are a key competitive advantage for Siemens’ top-of-the-line diagnostic imaging systems.

Siemens sued Saint-Gobain in April 2007 for infringement of a 1990 patent it holds on lutetium oxyorthosilicate (LSO) crystals that are an essential detector used for its 3D positron-emission tomography (PET) technology that is at the heart of the Biograph and Excel imaging systems.

A federal judge in Wilmington, Delaware, wrote on Jan. 8 that “Although plaintiff adduced evidence that ultimately may demonstrate infringement,” the case at this stage “does not weigh predominantly in plaintiff’s favor,” according to a Bloomberg report.

A Saint-Gobain spokesman said the company is “pleased” with the decision but declined to comment further, Bloomberg said.

A Siemens spokesman told Health Imaging News that it “is vigorously pursuing its lawsuit and looks forward to the jury trial in September.”

At the center of the dispute is the Saint-Gobain PreLude 420, an LSO crystal that Siemens claims is equivalent in its ability to give scanning arrays a faster throughput rates than competing technologies and thereby enable high-speed full body PET scans.

Higher patient processing counts for Siemens Biograph machines are a key selling point for the $3 million units. Siemens promotes its Biograph TruePoint scanners as three times faster than competing lines and the company claims a record 11 patients were scanned in one day at the Northern California PET Imaging Center with an average scan time of 35 minutes.

Improvements in crystals used for reading radiation have been a driver in the PET scanner market as the industry responds to greater demand. LSO crystals have a faster scintillation decay time and a higher percentage of relative light output than the more commonly installed bismuth germanium oxide crystals in units sold, for example, by GE Healthcare (Waukesha, Wisconsin) in its Discovery scanners.

Saint-Gobain Ceramics & Plastics is part of the $52 billion Saint-Gobain group, one of the top 100 industrial companies in the world. The LSO crystal arrays used in the company’s scintillation products sold for medical imaging are manufactured in Newbury, Ohio, Nemours France, and Soest, the Netherlands.

Saint-Gobain Crystals is said to be the world’s largest producer of detectors for nuclear medicine gamma camera imaging systems and produced scintillation detectors for the Lunar Prospector and MARS Odyssey probes.

Belgian fund buying Israeli radiology retrofitter

The private investment fund Quaeroq (Waregem, Belgium) has taken a 10% stake in the CMT Medical Technologies (Yokneam, Israel) and said it plans to continue investing, although it denied it seeks a takeover. For the moment Quaeroq said it will seek a seat on the CMT board of directors.

The core business of CMT Medical is radiographic and fluoroscopic imaging systems, angiography, digital radiography and cardiac imaging. The company’s SmartRAD family of products have both FDA clearance and the CE mark, and are offered both as a retrofit system for existing hospital X-ray systems or as a digital subsystem for original equipment manufacturers.

SmartRAD is designed to be compatible with existing general radiology clinics which retrofit a flat-panel detector as an alternative to traditional film screen and computed radiography. The updated system increases patient throughput by more than 30%, while reducing exposure to radiation both for patients and operators.

CMT Medical reported 2006 revenues of 118.5 million ($27 million) and is capitalized on the Euronext exchange in Paris at 115 million ($28.7 million).

Almost two-thirds of sales are from the Far East, with North America accounting for another fourth. Europe makes up 7% of sales.

U.S. firm agrees to acquire Sonion

Technitrol (Trevose, Pennsylvania) said it has agreed to acquire the capital stock of Sonion (Roskilde, Denmark), which it described as “a world-leading producer of highly innovative microacoustic transducers and micromechanical components for manufacturers of hearing instruments, advanced acoustic devices, medical devices and mobile communication devices.”

Sonion’s products are used in hearing aids, high-end earphones, medical devices, wireless handsets and other mobile terminal equipment. The company also is a leader in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) microphone technology.

The purchase price is roughly $385 million in cash, based on current exchange rates. The acquisition will be financed through a new credit facility and cash on hand. Closing of the transaction is expected before the end of February.

In addition to its Danish facilities, Sonion has facilities in Poland, China, Vietnam and the Netherlands. It employs about 4,900, and 2007 revenues were about $180 million.

Technitrol said it intends to keep Sonion’s current management and professional personnel largely in place.

Sonion’s hearing instrument components business (representing roughly 68% of 2007 revenues) consists of subminiature high-performance transducers and plastic electromechanical switches, volume controls and other modules. Included in these products are a variety of components for the increasingly popular “receiver-in-canal” hearing aids, Technitrol said.

Hearing instrument components will become a separate product division of Technitrol’s Electronic Components business. Sonion’s mobile terminal components business (32% of revenues), which produces wireless handset receivers, speakers and microphones, will be integrated into an existing division, which includes antennas and other radio frequency components and modules.

“Sonion’s businesses fit seamlessly into our Electronic Components group,” said James Papada III, CEO and chairman of Technitrol. “They serve rapidly growing markets with engineering-intensive, mission-critical products. With more than 500 active technology patents, the Sonion team has done a superior job of leading microacoustic component technology across all of its product lines.”

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