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Seoul-Nichia US Dispute Deepens

After Seoul Semiconductor is told to pay Nichia $62 by a California jury, both sides claim success in the case as their intellectual property battle escalates.

Having been repeatedly sued by its LED making rival Nichia, Seoul Semiconductor is responding by filing its own lawsuit in the US courts.

The Korean company is taking action in the Eastern District of Texas US district court over a patent that it claims covers “all Nichia s products of white, blue, green and UV LEDs".

Seoul Semiconductor names US patent 5075742, entitled “Semiconductor structure for optoelectronic components with inclusions", as the basis for its claim. This patent was originally awarded to the French Ministry for Post and Telecommunications, and covers techniques for reducing the number of dislocations in optoelectronic epitaxial structures.

According to a spokesman for Nichia this patent was recently bought by Seoul to assert the rights it covers against its Japanese adversary.

This comes after Nichia s complaint against Seoul s 902 series side-view LEDs was upheld in the Northern District of California.

Although the 902 LEDs infringe all four of Nichia s patents involved, Seoul says it has “substantially prevailed" because no damages were awarded for three infringements. In the fourth case Seoul was instructed to pay Nichia a token $62, one quarter of the $250 maximum damages to which the overall claim had been limited thanks to an earlier success in Seoul s defense (see related story).

“The amount is limited because most of the accused products were not directly distributed in the US by Seoul, but indirectly distributed in consumer products, such as cellular phones," Nichia commented.

“The damage only covers direct sales in the US because Seoul argued that it is not aware the LEDs go to the US and, thus, is not responsible for such indirect sales."

However, Nichia will now try to take advantage of the fact the 902 LEDs have been found to infringe its patents.

“We will be asking the court for a permanent injunction based on the verdict," a spokesperson for the Japanese company said.

Back on its home territory, Seoul Semiconductor is still defending itself in another case brought by Nichia in the Seoul courts that concerns top-view white LEDs.

Having now bought the French patent, which it says has already been issued in Japan, Germany, France, the UK and US, Seoul appears ready to fight back against what it has previously called Nichia's “improper" use of intellectual property.

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