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In the latest squabble over patents between Japanese and South Korean electronics giants, Toshiba has sued Hynix Semiconductor’s Japan and U.S. units, alleging patent infringement in flash-memory chips, key components in digital cameras and cell phones. Tokyo-based Toshiba Corp. said Tuesday it filed the lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and Tokyo District Court Monday, seeking unspecified damages. Toshiba accuses Hynix of violating seven patents in the United Sates, including those for DRAM, or dynamic random access memory, chips, which are used in personal computers, and three patents in Japan, all NAND-related, or flash-memory patents. Toshiba and Hynix entered a licensing agreement in August 1996 that included semiconductor products, according to Toshiba. They began negotiating an extension of the agreement ahead of its expiration in December 2002, but failed to agree on a fee, Toshiba said. “Failure to reach a satisfactory conclusion left Toshiba with no alternative other than to pursue legal recourse,” the company said in a statement. Kim Ah-young, a Hynix spokesman in South Korea, said the company was investigating details of the lawsuit. “We plan to react vigorously as the results come out,” he said. Japanese electronics makers have been recently filing lawsuits against South Korean makers, which are increasingly challenging their domination in the sector. Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., which makes Panasonic-brand products, filed a lawsuit in Tokyo last month against LG Electronics Inc. of South Korea, demanding royalties in plasma display panels, or PDPs. Matsushita also submitted a request with Japanese customs authorities to halt imports of products that Matsushita says is violating its patents. In Seoul, LG said it’s determined to defend its position. In April, Tokyo Customs agreed to temporarily halt imports of PDPs produced by Samsung SDI Co. of South Korea after receiving a complaint from Japanese electronics maker Fujitsu Ltd. about possible patent infringements. The two companies settled in June. They had been filing lawsuits and counter-lawsuits in the United States and Japan. Fujitsu, a pioneer in PDP technology, had accused Samsung of violating its patents, but Samsung said its panels don’t constitute violations. The legal battles underline the growing competition in the electronics industry between the older Japanese companies and South Korean makers that are gaining in strength. Thin screens, such as liquid crystal displays and PDPs, are key for digital TVs, cell phones and other new appliances. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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