Samsung Fights Japanese Import Ban

The suit filed Thursday in Tokyo District Court is the latest development in a legal battle between Samsung and Japanese electronics maker Fujitsu over patents for plasma displays.

The panels are increasingly in demand around the world, along with liquid crystal displays, for flat-panel TVs, and are expected to be an even bigger market in coming years.

Thursday’s move by Samsung Japan Corp., a trading company in Tokyo that’s part of the Samsung group, also included a request for the court to check into whether Samsung panels constitute patent violations.

On Wednesday, Japanese customs officials suspended the import of Samsung panels in response to Fujitsu’s April 6 lawsuit filed in the Tokyo District Court and the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, which accused Samsung of patent violations.

Tokyo-based Fujitsu, which says it produced the world’s first commercial 21-inch full-color plasma display panel, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages in those lawsuits. A request for an import ban on Samsung panels was part of its Tokyo lawsuit.

“Most people would feel that suspending imports ahead of a court ruling is going too far,” said Maria Lee, spokeswoman for Samsung Japan. “It’s comparable to arresting somebody because that person is likely to become a criminal.”

Fujitsu spokesman Scott Ikeda had no comment as the company had not seen the papers filed by Samsung.

Samsung, which says its panels don’t violate patents, submitted its own lawsuit in February in a U.S. federal court contesting Fujitsu’s right to the patents. On Thursday, Samsung also asked Japanese patent authorities to assess whether it was violating plasma display panel patents.

In Seoul, the South Korean government told Tokyo on Thursday the legal dispute between Samsung and Fujitsu should be left to the companies, calling the import ban “unfair.”

Fujitsu leads the global PDP market with a share of about 25 percent. Samsung, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, has the second-largest at about 20 percent. The growing clout of Samsung in other major sectors such as chips has battered the once mighty Japanese electronics makers.

Samsung SDI, the unit that makes panels, produced 360,000 plasma display panels last year, but only about 3 percent were exported to Japan, Lee said. Most of the exports went to North America and Europe, she said.

Fujitsu has signed licensing agreements on PDP technology with Japanese companies, Pioneer Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes Panasonic brand products, according to Ikeda.

Source: Associated Press