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Sony sued in digicam patent clash

Not by Kodak, for a change

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Sony was slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit and application to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the import of its PDAs and digital cameras.

The lawsuit and import ban request come from technology development and licensing company Ampex. It claims Sony's PDAs and digicams violate its patents for the storage and retrieval of digital images.

Yes, that does cover rather a lot of devices out there in the market, and in May 2004 Ampex began legal action against Sanyo, alleging similar patent infringement.

Ampex claims to have pursued licensing negotiations with Sony and "other major manufacturers of digital still cameras" to reach an agreement on "commercially acceptable running royalties on future shipments as well as payment of royalties on shipments for prior periods". Talks presumably broke down in Sony's case, hence the lawsuit, which also seeks unspecified damages.

Both the Sony and Sanyo suits appear to be intended to set an example for other companies to see. Ampex threatens: "[We] may seek to enforce its patents by instituting additional litigation against other manufacturers if licensing agreements are not completed in the near future."

Reporting a rival to the ITC is becoming an increasingly common tactic in patent infringement cases. This month, Gateway made just such a complaint about HP, after the ITC said it would investigate issues raised by HP against Gateway.

Sony, meanwhile, is fighting rival digicam maker Kodak over allegations the each company has violated the other's intellectual property. ®

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