Sharp, Samsung settle all outstanding LCD patent cases

Sharp and Samsung have put nearly three years of battling over LCD panel and module patents behind them with a deal that ends all ongoing patent infringement disputes, they said Monday.

Both companies declined to disclose details of the agreement.

“We have a confidentiality agreement but we can say these conditions will be in favor of Sharp,” said Miyuki Nakayama, a Sharp spokeswoman in Tokyo.

The two began squabbling over patents in August 2007 when Sharp filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging LCD modules manufactured by Samsung and LCD TVs, computer monitors and mobile phones that incorporate the modules infringed on five of its U.S. patents.

Sharp expanded the suit to South Korea in December of the same year, prompting Samsung to fire back the same month with lawsuits in Japan and the U.S. The battle was later taken to Europe and also before the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Two recent rulings appear to have provided the incentive to settle.

In December a court in The Hague ruled that Samsung had infringed on Sharp patents and ordered a halt to imports of infringing products while in January the U.S. ITC also began blocking some Samsung products, said Nakayama.

A part of the settlement includes a patent cross-licensing agreement that allows each company to use the patents of the other in their products.

The flat-panel display sector is highly competitive and Sharp and Samsung are market leaders. The two companies are constantly racing to offer a better image quality at a lower price. In common with other competitive sectors in the electronics industry such patent infringement lawsuits appear to come with the territory and multi-year battles are not uncommon.

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