US ITC to Investigate Sharp, RIM on Patent Complaints

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has decided to investigate separate complaints made against Sharp and Research In Motion (RIM) that each allege the companies are infringing patents held by the complainants.

The complaint (ITC number 337-TA-699) against Sharp was made by Samsung Electronics and claims LCD panels and modules made by the Japanese company infringe on Samsung's intellectual property. At its center are patents that cover the generation of high quality images on gray-scale LCDs (U.S. Patent No. 5,844,533), control signalling inside LCD panels (U.S. Patent No. 6,888,585) and a technique for improving image quality (U.S. Patent No. 7,436,479).

Samsung alleges that various 40- and 46-inch Aquos LCD TVs infringe the patents and is asking the ITC to halt imports of the television sets.

Samsung filed the complaint on Dec. 1, less than a month after the ITC ruled on a similar LCD patent spat between the two companies. In that case Sharp had alleged Samsung infringed on several of its LCD patents and the ITC ruled in favor of Sharp.

The filing against against RIM (ITC number 337-TA-697) was made by Omaha-based Prism Technologies. The company makes money from acquiring patents related to Internet security and e-commerce and either licensing or attempting to enforce the technologies.

The complaint involves a single patent that concerns a method for controlling access to electronically stored data using an authentication server (U.S. Patent No. 7,290,288). Prism alleges that RIM's BlackBerry smartphone and related software infringe on the technology.

By taking up the complaints the ITC has started an investigatory process that will first see an administrative law judge make an initial ruling after an evidentiary hearing. Both complainants have asked the ITC to issue an exclusion order and cease and desist order should the complaints be found to be correct.

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