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Patent dispute breaks Canon-Toshiba JV

Posted: 17 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:SED? displays? display? panel display? panel displays?

A patent dispute has ended a joint venture between Canon Inc. and Toshiba Corp. for producing surface-conduction electron-emitter display (SED) TVs.

The companies said Jan. 12 that Toshiba will withdraw from SED Inc., their joint manufacturing company for producing SED panels. The unit will now become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canon. The split is seen as a countermeasure in the patent dispute with Nano-Proprietary.

Nano-Proprietary welcomed the move but said it does not resolve pending litigation.

Nano-Proprietary owns field-emission display (FED) patents. SED displays use the field-emission phenomena, and Canon licensed Nano-Proprietary's FED technologies in 1999. The U.S. company limited the use of its licensed technology to Canon subsidiaries. After establishing SED Inc. in 2004, Nano-Proprietary sued the following year claiming SED Inc. was not a Canon subsidiary. SED Inc. is nearly evenly owned by Canon and Toshiba.

Toshiba and Canon agreed to transfer all of Toshiba's shares in SED Inc. to Canon, making it wholly owned by Canon as of Jan. 29.

"We believe this decision will settle the dispute (with Nano-Proprietary)", a Canon spokesman said.

Both Toshiba and Canon intend to introduce SED TV sets in Japan in Q4 of 2007 using panels built on a pilot line at Canon's Hiratsuka plant.

"Toshiba will withdraw completely from SED panel production. Instead, we will purchase the panels from SED Inc. to build SED TV sets," said a Toshiba spokeswoman.

The companies hope that ending the SED joint venture will allow them to concentrate on introducing SED TVs as soon as possible. Canon must now start from scratch to develop its own plan for volume production.

Canon and Toshiba still plan to merge their SED technologies. Toshiba will continue providing TV technologies while Kazunori Fukuma, delegated by Toshiba to be SED Inc.'s president, will move to Canon. Also, Toshiba engineers working on the JV will continue to work under a new contract.

Nano-Proprietary said its case against Canon will continue. "Restructuring of Canon's ownership position does not resolve the pending litigation which goes to trial in a few weeks," CEO Tom Bijou said in a statement. "We have terminated Canon's license as a result of breach of contract. Moreover, our complaint against Canon includes other counts, including fraud unrelated to the ownership of SED."

Bijou added that Nano-Proprietary was "willing to enter into a new license agreement with Canon on reasonable terms."

- Yoshiko Hara
EE Times




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