updated 4/7/2004 3:24:00 PM ET 2004-04-07T19:24:00

Japan’s Fujitsu Ltd said Wednesday it had filed a countersuit against South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co in a California court, claiming patent infringements on plasma display panel (PDP) technology.

Fujitsu’s suit is a response to one in February from Samsung SDI seeking to nullify the Japanese firm’s claim that it held patents over eight PDP technologies.

It underscores the intensifying competition in the electronics market that has sparked a flurry of patent infringement suits around Asia.

“The message behind Fujitsu’s suit is that Japan will fight to protect its position in the flat-panel display TV market...and will not easily allow technologies to flow to Asian producers,” Deutsche Securities analyst Fumiaki Sato said in a note to clients.

Chips-to-computer conglomerate Fujitsu said it had filed suit against Samsung SDI to seek an injunction over the sale and import of certain PDP products in the United States and had issued a similar claim in a Tokyo court.

“We cannot permit others to exploit ... valuable inventions without appropriate compensation,” Masanobu Katoh, president of Fujitsu’s intellectual property group, said in a statement.
Panels are the key component of plasma televisions, a market expected to grow almost sevenfold by 2007.

“There had been some dispute whether Fujitsu’s claims are enforceable and we’ll wait for the court rulings,” said Bryan Sohn, spokesman at Samsung SDI, 20 percent held by Samsung Electronics

Samsung SDI is the world’s second-largest PDP manufacturer, while Fujitsu holds a 50 percent stake in the largest PDP maker, Fujitsu Hitachi Plasma Display Ltd, according to researcher DisplaySearch.

Fujitsu said it held many of the basic patents relating to PDP technology and had licensing agreements with Pioneer Corp and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd, makers of Panasonic branded electronics. The company said it was in negotiations with LG Electronics Ltd on a licensing agreement.

Tit for tat
In the legal action taken in the United States, Fujitsu claims Samsung SDI infringed 10 patents, including technology relating to the display’s colours. The Japanese suit related to technology to make panels brighter.

The suits follow a breakdown in negotiations between Samsung SDI and Fujitsu over the licensing of some of Fujitsu’s technology. Samsung SDI said its technology was different to Fujitsu’s patents.

The Fujitsu-Samsung SDI suit follows Sony Corp and Eastman Kodak Co’s duelling patent infringement lawsuits in the U.S. over digital camera technology.

Semiconductor makers Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp and China’s SMIC are also embroiled in a legal battle concerning patents.

Analysts say Japan’s lack of vigilance over its technology during the 1990s was a factor in the rise of Asian rivals and the woes that gripped the Japanese electronics sector.
Japan’s electronics firms may have learned their lesson.

Sharp Corp has said it does not file patents on any technology that cannot be reverse engineered, because patents sometimes offer too many clues to rivals.

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