View Count: 282 |  Publish Date: April 06, 2014
Samsung SD card antitrust suit against Panasonic reinstated

A federal appeals court has reinstated an antitrust suit by Samsung Electronics accusing Panasonic Corp. of illegally monopolizing the market for SD cards, the flash-memory cards widely used in cell phones and other mobile devices.
The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco in 2010, was dismissed by a federal judge, who said Panasonics licensing of SD cards in 2003 had started the clock on a four-year legal deadline for court challenges.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed Friday, saying Samsung had sued less than four years after Panasonic began licensing in 2006 its newly designed high-capacity and micro-SD cards, which quickly dominated the market. The court also said the rapid changes in the technological market couldnt have been foreseen within four years of the initial 2003 licensing, so a strict statute of limitations wouldnt apply.
Panasonic and its partners developed SD cards in 1999 and started licensing them to other manufacturers four years later, charging a 6 percent royalty. Samsung, the South Korean company that is the worlds largest maker of mobile phones, was then producing a competing flash-memory card but signed the Panasonic licensing agreement.
Samsung refused to sign Panasonics 2006 license for its updated products, though it continued to pay 6 percent royalties to its competitor, the court said. Samsungs 2010 suit claimed Panasonics licenses were an attempt to stifle competition.
Without addressing the merits of the lawsuit, the appeals court said it was filed on time.
Although Panasonic started licensing SD cards in 2003, those licenses did not cover the 2006 cards, nor expansion to future technological developments, Judge Ronald Gould said in the 3-0 ruling. He also said the four-year deadline wouldnt have started in 2003 because Samsungs potential damages were too speculative at that point, as the company couldnt have known for sure whether it would want to enter the SD market.
The law does not require a potential plaintiff to foresee the kind of dramatic and rapid technological changes that took place over the last decade to recover damages for antitrust harm, Gould said.
Lawyers for the two companies were unavailable for comment.
Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @egelko

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Time: 23:48  |  News Code: 396473  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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