02 November 2004 07:51 [Source: ICIS news]
SINGAPORE (CNI) – South Korea’s LG Electronics (LGE) is threatening a series of harsh countermeasures against Japan’s Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, the parent company of electronics giant Panasonic, with each side accusing the other of patent infringement, CNI was told on Tuesday.
Matsushita on Monday filed an injunction with the Japanese customs department seeking to bar the import of LGE-produced plasma display panels (PDPs) into the country, alleging that the South Korean company had violated a number of its patents.
LGE in return has threatened to approach South Korea’s customs office with a reciprocal request, and further to sue Panasonic’s South Korean affiliate for patent violations.
The hostility followed the breakdown of more than one year of talks on a possible cross-licensing agreement covering PDP technologies.
A spokesman for the South Korean company said that Matsushita’s move was unprecedented and unfair, as the company had not yet legally proven any patent infringement on the part of LGE.
He said that LGE had found numerous instances of Matsushita’s violation of its patents. Further, he alleged that Matsushita had backed out of the cross-licensing talks because its PDP technologies were inferior to LGE’s, so the Japanese company was unable to secure a deal that was to its advantage.
A Matsushita spokesman said the company decided to launch the customs petition rather than seek a legal solution because “our specialists decided that this measure was the best way to stop LG’s product from entering the country".
He was unable to say whether the petition was also seeking to ban the import of devices that use LGE’s PDPs. But, he added, “we would try to do that if the customs department permits it".
If a customs ban was only on LGE’s raw PDP panels and not on finished goods – which would include plasma monitors and televisions made by LGE and third parties – then Matsushita’s action would have only a minimal impact on the company. “We ship only several hundred PDPs to Japan a month – most PDP products that are used in Japan are not made there,” the LGE spokesman said.
LGE and Panasonic were the top two PDP television makers last year, so if the legal and trade spat worsens it could have undesirable effects for their suppliers and customers.
Demand for PDPs and liquid-crystal-display (LCD) screens have been driving demand for a variety of electronics and electronic-related materials in Asia. As well as requiring a variety of films, LCD and PDP makers have been soaking up methyl methacrylate (MMA), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and polycarbonate.
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