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Samsung cranks up LED lighting patent battle

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Samsung LED—a subsidiary of South Korean tech giant Samsung—has ratcheted up its legal battle with German rival Osram by filing a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking that Osram LED lighting products be barred from importation into the United States. Samsung LED claims the Osram products infringe on eight core LED lighting patents held by Samsung; the company is also seeking unspecified damages.

LED lighting technology is used in everything from back-lit computer displays and televisions to mobile phones, flashlights, street lamps, and automobile displays.

The move is the latest tit-for-tat in an LED lighting drama that started in June when Osram parent company Siemens sued Samsung and LG over similar LED lighting patent disputes. After that, Samsung LED sued Osram in Korea, as well as two Korean companies selling Osram products. Osram has also filed complaints against Samsung in the United States and Germany.

Samsung also indicated that it may bring complaints against other companies using Osram LED lighting components in products sold in the United States.

“Samsung LED intends to vigorously enforce its intellectual property rights, and these lawsuits reflect Samsung LED’s commitment to that enforcement,” the company said in a statement.

Although technology patent disputes are commonplace in computer and consumer electronics hardware and software, the suit highlights that stiff competition fuels patent battles all the way down to the component level, even for technologies as seemingly straightforward as the lights behind a display. As companies compete to make their lighting smaller, brighter, and more energy-efficient, any technological edge can help companies win big manufacturing contracts—and, just as with other patent cases, that makes the dispute all about money.