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14 November 2007


Jury affirms infringement of Nichia patents, but Seoul counter-sues

In a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, a jury verdict has unanimously found that the 902 series side-view LEDs of Korean LED maker Seoul Semiconductor Co Ltd and its US subsidiary Seoul Semiconductor Inc infringe US design patents D491,538, D490,784, D499,385 and D503,388 owned by Nichia Corp of Anan, Tokushima, Japan, and that Seoul’s infringement was willful.

Nichia filed the action in January 2006, seeking damages for past infringement and an injunction against future infringing activity. Also originally named as defendants were Creative Technology Ltd and its US subsidiaries Creative Labs Inc and Creative Holdings Inc, which use Seoul Semiconductor’s LEDs to backlight the LCD screens in their MP3 player but settled with Nichia in November 2006.

Seoul’s 902 series LEDs are mostly used for liquid-crystal display (LCD) backlight units in consumer products such as cell phones. Nichia says that the verdict means that any consumer product distributed in the US that incorporates Seoul’s 902 LED will be containing a patent-infringing product.

Nichia adds it is confident that other courts in Korea, the USA and Japan that are currently dealing with disputes between Nichia and Seoul Semiconductor will also uphold its intellectual property rights and recognize Seoul’s infringement.

However, Seoul claims that it has ‘substantially prevailed’ in the verdict, as it was found to be not liable for damages on three out of four of the patents. Also, the jury’s award for damages is limited to $62 recovery on the fourth patent.

Seoul Semiconductor says it continues to believe that Nichia’s US design patents are invalid, and has asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine all four patents asserted against it. Nichia’s design patents were previously invalidated by the Korean Intellectual Property Office in December 2006.

Seoul Semiconductor has since filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas alleging that Nichia's white, blue, green and UV LEDs infringe Seoul’s US patent 5,075,742, covering a method for reducing dislocations in a semiconductor layer by growing a sequence of three-dimensional inclusions.

Citing Nichia’s 2006 revenue of about $1.3bn (nearly ¥150bn) from LED and laser diodes, Seoul is seeking an injunction, and damages adequate to compensate for past and future infringement. The firm says that it will also continue to exercise the patent right against companies using Nichia’s products.

To prosecute its claims against Nichia , Seoul has retained Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, whose Patent Litigation Group is led by David C. Radulescu. Radulescu earned a Ph.D. in compound semiconductor devices (including LEDs and lasers) and was a leading counselor representing LED maker Cree against a lawsuit from Nichia in 2002 (achieving a cross-license agreement between Nichia and Cree that succeeded in ending the patent disputes between them).

See related items:

Seoul wins appeal for damages and injunction against Itswell

Seoul defeats white LED patent actions by AOT and Itswell

Nichia files second Korean patent lawsuit against Seoul Semi

Nichia expands patent cross-license with Cree; files white LED patent lawsuit against Seoul in Korea

Seoul signs LED patent cross-license agreement with Osram; Nichia lawsuit dismissed in US

AOT loses Taiwan patent invalidation action against Seoul Semiconductor

Nichia sues Seoul Semiconductor's Japanese subsidiary over white LEDs

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

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