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Boffin seeks US Blu-ray, mobile phone import ban

Alleges mass infringement of blue-laser diode patent

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The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has named 30 companies it intends to investigate to see if products they import into the States are guilty of patent infringement.

Among the names are such luminaries as Sony, Nokia, Toshiba, Hitachi, LG and Samsung. The technologies affected include Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD and mobile phones.

The ITC's investigation follows a complaint filed by one Gertrude Neumark Rothschild of Hartsdale, New York, who holds a patent detailing LEDs and laser diodes that emit short-wavelength light. Rothschild alleges a host of companies' products incorporate such devices, and she's seeking restitution.

One option open to her other than suing the alleged violators directly is to complain to the ITC that goods being imported into the US infringe her US patent. The ITC has decided to investigate the complaint, but it stressed that it has yet to come to any decision on the merits of the case.

Rothschild wants the ITC to ban the import of any products the organisation finds that contain components that infringe her patent. However, as the ITC said, the body may not uncover any infringement.

Her complaint essentially covers the use of the blue-laser diodes that are key components in Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD players and storage devices. No wonder then that the likes of Sony, Toshiba, LG, Sharp, Samsung and Panasonic are on the ITC's list.

It's not clear yet how such technology is incorporated into phones - in display backlights, possibly - but Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Motorola are mentioned too.

Rothschild is Howe Professor Emerita of Materials Science at New York's Columbia University, and has a long and distinguished history of research into semiconductors. She graduated in 1948, went on to gain an MA and later a PhD in Chemistry before embarking on a career with Philips. She joined the Columbia staff in 1985.

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