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Federal jurors in Indianapolis have awarded $10.6 million to a Japanese audio components maker that claimed Thomson Consumer Electronics infringed on its patents by using pirated components in more than 135 models of cassette tape players sold under popular brands such as GE and RCA. U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young must now decide whether to take the jury’s recommendation and add prejudgment interest and attorneys’ fees, vacate the award or reduce it. He also has the option to treble the damages because jurors found Thomson willfully violated patents held by Tokyo-based Tanashin Denki Co. Ltd. A treble award could mean a $50 million judgment against Thomson. Tanashin v. Thomson, No. IP99-C-0836. Tanashin lawyers say they won’t stop with a money award. “Tanashin is going to ask for an injunction to prevent any further importation or selling of infringing products,” said patent attorney Stan Fisher, who at trial assisted litigator Mark W. Wasserman. Both are at Reed Smith Hazel & Thomas in Falls Church, Va. “The store shelves are full of these products,” said Fisher, who added that Tanashin intends to go directly to vendors such as K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and Radio Shack to have infringing products removed from the shelves. A spokesman for Thomson declined to discuss the verdict. Thomson’s lead trial counsel, George E. Purdy of Bose McKinney & Evans in Indianapolis, did not return calls for comment. Although Thomson Consumer Electronics was a Tanashin customer until the mid-1990s, Fisher said Thomson switched over to purchase cheap knockoffs of Tanashin’s cassette drive mechanisms from other Asian companies. Tanashin, the world’s largest manufacturer of cassette drive mechanisms, sued Thomson to protect five of its U.S. patents covering the design and components of the mechanism. Tanashin also sued or threatened suit against several other mostly American and Japanese companies. But, according to Fisher, Thomson was the lone company that refused to settle. Because of confidentiality agreements, Fisher declined to reveal details of the settlements or the names of the more than 10 other companies Tanashin sought to prosecute. He did say that Tanashin attempted to settle “many times” with Thomson before trial for “substantially less than the verdict.” The nine-person jury, after two weeks of trial, took six hours to reach its verdict on Oct. 27. After conducting post-trial interviews, Fisher said jurors believed all through the trial that there was copying.

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