According to the leaders of the national teleradiology partnership Direct Radiology, LLC, the lawsuit Virtual Radiologic (vRad) and NightHawk Radiology Services filed alleging patent infringement is unfounded and meant to intimidate competitors rather than protect patent rights.
“The lawsuit is without merit, and we have already begun the process of vigorously disputing the claims,” said Lawrence Bub, M.D., a neuroradiologist and one of three founding principals of Direct Radiology.
Minneapolis-based vRad filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. It alleges that Tandem Radiology, a company created by former NightHawk employees, developed technology that infringed on patents held by vRad. In addition, it alleges that two teleradiology companies (Direct Radiology and Imaging Advantage) that used Tandem Radiology technology also infringed on vRad’s patents.
In a press release issued the day the lawsuit was filed, vRad CEO Jim Burke stated that vRad was obligated to file the suit. “We have a duty to our radiologists, investors, employees, clients and patients to protect our investments, and to file this lawsuit to ensure that vRad will be able to continue delivering innovative solutions to enhance patient care, practice performance and physician satisfaction,” he stated.
However, Direct Radiology disputes this. “The teleradiology market is changing,” noted Kyle Henneberry, M.D., another Direct Radiology founding principal, in their press release. “Radiology groups are moving away from larger corporations and toward taking back their own night coverage or switching to smaller, more personal physician partnerships whose operations more closely resemble their own, and who can offer improved service levels at lower cost. We would prefer to compete in the market, but we are prepared to defend ourselves in the courtroom.”
Indeed, since its founding last year, Direct Radiology has marketed itself up as a physician-owned and led alternative to large teleradiology firms. Its 30 radiologists (who are all partners and stakeholders in the practice) and 20 support staff currently support 70 facilities across the country.
Dr. Bub promised that the suit would not affect Direct Radiology’s operations or its level of service and quality for customers.
Added Direct Radiology’s third co-founding principal, John Arias, M.D., “we are radiologists and our focus will remain on our patients. We have received tremendous support from the radiology community since the lawsuit was announced.”