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14 December 2006


Nichia loses Korean design patent rights for backlighting side-view white LED

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) has ruled that South Korean firm Baron Tech Co Ltd has won its ‘Design Patent Invalidation’ trial against LED maker Nichia Corp of Japan, and has invalidated Nichia’s eight design patents in Korea.

The patent-invalidated product is a side-view white LED, which has been used in LCD backlighting for mobile phones, PDAs, digital cameras, and navigation devices. Using its patent, Nichia has been supplying about $0.2bn of the side-view LEDs annually to Korean customers.

“Nichia has been threatening other LED companies around the world and filing lawsuits about patent infringement to interrupt companies from entering into the market and to retain its monopoly position,” says Baron Tech’s CEO Myung Hwan Lee. “KIPO’s patent invalidation judgment will put a stop to Nichia’s inappropriate actions.”

Soo Wan Lee, senior attorney for AIP Patent & Law Offices of Kangnam-gu, South Korea, adds: “The basic requirement for a design patent is ornamentality or functional elegance. Nichia’s design patents do not meet this ornamentality requirement. Yet, Nichia has been sending letters of warning to many of the world’s LED firms, alleging that they have infringed upon Nichia’s design patents.”

The invalidated patent in the trial has the same design as the claim patent for which Nichia had filed a lawsuit in January 2006 in the US Federal Court for the Northern District of California against Seoul Semiconductor Co Ltd (SSC), the biggest LED maker in Korea and one of the top 10 globally, and its US subsidiary Seoul Semiconductor Inc, as well as against Creative Technology Ltd and its US subsidiaries Creative Holdings Inc and Creative Labs Inc, which had sold products that incorporated SSC’s LEDs. However, in late November Nichia settled the design patent litigation with Creative, while continuing the litigation against SSC.

SSC is now hoping that the KIPO’s decision to invalidate Nichia’s design patents in Korea will be upheld internationally, particularly in the US courts. It adds that the decision re-establishes fair market competition in the LED industry and strengthens SSC’s presence in the backlighting LED industry.

“This trial will help put a halt to Nichia’s aggressive omni-directional attacks on other LED companies,” says SSC’s legal team leader, Dae Hyun Jang, adding that the decision “quells the unrest of both domestic and overseas customers”. 

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