Samsung and LG at each other’s throats over patents

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Samsung and LG at each other’s throats over patents

Tech titans Samsung and LG continued their fangs-bared battles over patents and technology this year with fierce fights in court between their world-class electronics subsidiaries

Just last week, Samsung Display asked the Korea Intellectual Property Tribunal to cancel three patents acquired by LG Display regarding the structure and design of its LCD panels.

“Such patents are not valid as they lack novelty and [technological] advancement, as many Japanese companies including Toshiba and Hitachi have already acquired [similar] patents,” said Samsung Display.

The request follows on from a previous lawsuit filed by LG Display. It argued that panels used in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 infringed its patent rights, and requested a ban on the production and sale of the smartphone in December.

Before Samsung’s counter-attack last week, LG Electronics filed a defamation suit against Samsung Electronics arguing that it had slandered its products on a video commercial that compared the size of the two companies’ refrigerators.

In the commercial, Samsung tested one of its 900-liter capacity models and compared it to a 910-liter model by LG, claiming that its product could store more canned goods than its “larger” rival.

A local court sided with LG and decided the advertisement was unfairly executed.

The conflicts between the two companies grew worse after LG’s top executives began moving to strengthen the brand’s image.

“We won’t survive if we are not No. 1,” LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo told 300 executives of LG subsidiaries in September. “Think intensely and execute plans thoroughly,” he added.

After the unusually strong comments, LG Display held a press conference the following day and announced it had filed a patent infringement suit against Samsung Electronics and Samsung Display, alleging they had violated its patents regarding organic light-emitting diodes.

“Recent aggressive moves by LG executives, including the recent lawsuits, reflect Chairman Koo’s intention,” said an industry expert. “Just as other companies have been forgotten in the smartphone race as Apple and Samsung continue to bump heads in numerous lawsuits, filing lawsuits against Samsung is a highly strategic move for LG.”

Samsung is also not shy when it comes to taking legal action against LG, especially tit-for-tat battles.

“It is a burden for us to engage in such tussles in our domestic market, but we have no other option, but to respond,” said a Samsung official. “We will take every [legal] measure we can.”

As neither company is backing down, the litigation seems destined to drag on this year.

“We endured as much as we realistically could before we filed a lawsuit, and the court has already decided that Samsung’s [refrigerator] commercial was unfair,” said Cho Sun-jin, head of LG Electronics’ home appliance business, at a press conference held at the recently ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“From now on, we will use the court’s decision as leverage whenever possible.”

Korean lawyers expect to see more businesses take legal actions against each another this year to survive amid an increasingly competitive market.

“Businesses consider taking legal action to gain an edge over their rivals and become No. 1 in the market,” said Koo Tae-eon, a lawyer at Tek and Law, which specializes in patent infringement suits. “More such lawsuits may be on the horizon as there is no such thing as friendly or gentle competition between companies either here or abroad.”



By Park Tae-hee [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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