Nichia sues Seoul in the UK over LED annealing patent

Sept. 18, 2008
Nichia has filed yet another patent lawsuit against Seoul Semiconductor, this time relating to a crucial annealing patent for p-type GaN material. Seoul immediately issued a retaliatory press release.
Rival LED makers Nichia and Seoul Semiconductor continue to make sure their patent lawyers are not affected by the global credit crunch. Nichia has filed an infringement lawsuit in the UK, and Seoul has responded with a press release saying the company is confident that it doesn't infringe Nichia's patent.

The two press releases are reproduced below and have not been edited. Readers can judge whether firing press releases at each other is the best way to proceed.

Nichia press release - September 17, 2008

Nichia Initiates UK Patent "Annealing Patent"

On September 16, 2008, Nichia Corporation filed a new action for infringement and damages in the U.K. against Seoul Semiconductor Co., Ltd, incorporated in Korea and other(s) based on the EP(UK) 0 541,373 patent, "Method of Manufacturing P-type Compound Semiconductor," (the Annealing Patent) which is one of Nichia’s most important patents and relates to a thermal annealing method for manufacturing a p type GaN-based semiconductor.

The LED products in question are from Seoul Semiconductor’s Acriche series, which is produced on a large scale. The Annealing Patent is considered a fundamental and indispensable patent for the mass production of GaN-based LEDs and LDs. Nichia believes that LED chips installed in the white LED products of the Acriche series are manufactured using the process disclosed in the Annealing Patent.

Nichia places great significance on the proper protection of intellectual property rights, and will continue to exercise its rights aggressively around the world.

Seoul Semiconductor press release - September 17, 2008

-- Seoul Semiconductor expresses confidence that it is not infringing Nichia's patent

Seoul, Korea -- Seoul Semiconductor officially announced it had the means to establish its non-infringement of any valid claim in a lawsuit brought by Nichia Corporation in the English High Court, in which Nichia asserts that Nichia asserts through their website and press release that Seoul's Acriche products infringe its patented "annealing" technology. Regarding this lawsuit, Seoul believes it has sufficient prior art to have Nichia's patent revoked as it is invalid.

According to Seoul's legal team, Seoul's Acriche products is being manufactured under a licence for a related technology from Rothschild Neumark and UCSB. Thus Seoul has a firm belief it doesn't infringe Nichia's patent.

Seoul finds it hard to see how Nichia's patent in this lawsuit can be valid over Professor Neumark's [earlier] patent and preceding technologies. Furthermore, Seoul has an opinion from a Japanese patent specialist that multiple similar technologies have existed before.

Seoul said it had brought up proposals to bring invalidity lawsuits against Nichia's patents and have them revoked. And Seoul added other lawsuits brought by it to invalidate Nichia's patents are on-going in the US, Japan and Korea.

A Seoul official said, "We will keep our customers right and away from damage by all of Nichia's lawsuits, including this inadequate one. Also, we pursue revocation actions to protect stockholder's rights and to ensure our company can continue to contribute to development of the world". In this lawsuit, it is clear that Seoul seems to be unperturbed.