Tuesday, November 23, 2004

More patent litigation in Japan?

-->In late 2002, the Japanese Parliament passed a law that has cut the time it takes to try a patent-infringement case to around a year, down from two to three years. And in April, 2003, a bill was passed enabling companies to block the import of products they allege infringe patents if court hearings are pending -- the law Matsushita just invoked against LG of South Korea.

Critics of the legal deluge charge that Japan is just trying to erect protectionist import barriers. And the litigation isn't without risks. LG, for instance, has filed its own suit against Matsushita in Korea that seeks to cut off imports of its Panasonic products. And Hynix is threatening "aggressive countermeasures."

The Matsushita court action came just two days after Toshiba Corp. filed suit in Japan and the U.S. against South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor Inc., charging patent violations in the manufacture of so-called NAND flash-memory chips that Hynix began selling in February. Toshiba is seeking a ban on imports of Hynix chips into Japan and money damages in the U.S. The company has a lot to protect. With 37% of the global market, Toshiba ranks second only to Samsung in flash memory and holds more than 1,000 NAND-related patents. The chips are used in digital cameras, MP3 players, and other equipment. "We are prepared to take action against any infringement of our patents," says Shozo Saito, a vice-president in Toshiba's semiconductor division. Hynix vigorously denies any wrongdoing.<--


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