Iiyama reanimates LCD cartel lawsuit corpse, swings it at Samsung

Court of Appeal: Can't kick this out, let's have a trial

LG and Samsung may be getting hot under the collar after an English court agreed that the long-running liquid crystal display (LCD) price-fixing cartel case can be reopened.

In a lengthy and detailed ruling by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, handed down on Friday, Lord Justices Longmore and Henderson, along with Lady Justice Asplin, effectively ripped up a 2016 order made in the High Court that strangled legal proceedings over the cartel in the UK.

That order was made after Japanese screen maker Iiyama tried to sue Samsung and LG in the UK for damages over the cartel's actions, following a 2010 EU Commission decision under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU to fine the two companies for price fixing. Article 101 bans cartels.

Iiyama's attempt to claim damages was struck out on the grounds that the cartel lacked sufficient territorial connection to the EU. Samsung and others had argued that because the actual fixing of prices occurred in Asia, Iiyama did not have legal standing to sue in an EU member state.

Now, however, the Court of Appeal has ruled that Iiyama's claim does have territorial standing in the EU because the artificially inflated LCD prices distorted the market here as well. As the UK is currently still a member of the EU, that gives Iiyama the green light to sue in London for damages. Iiyama successfully argued that it bought monitors from Samsung and others in the cartel from within the EU.

At the Court of Appeal, Samsung tried to have Iiyama's claims dismissed summarily – that is, without a trial. The judges said they could not fully consider the whole case without a full trial, forcing them to throw out the application for summary judgment.

"Assessment of the various elements which constitute the intrinsic nature of the private law claims for infringement of Article 101 brought by these particular claimants is not in our view a question suitable for summary determination, unless the court considers it incapable of argument with any real prospect of success that the applicable law will be found at trial to be EU law," ruled the court.

Keep rolling, rolling, rolling...

The EU investigation into the LCD cartel kicked off in 2009, with Philips and LG Display initially being fingered. The cartel was eventually discovered to have been a worldwide operation, with Toshiba being fined $87m in 2012 after being found guilty of fixing screen prices in the US.

A half-a-billion-dollar settlement was signed by Samsung, Sharp, Chimei Innolux, Hitachi Display, Hannstar Display, Chunghwa Pictures Tubes and Epsom in 2011.

In 2015 the EU Court of Justice cheerfully agreed that the EU Commission had done the right thing in fining LG €210m over its involvement in the cartel.

Global distie Tech Data reported a double-digit profit surge in the final quarter of fiscal 2016 in part because of settlements it had banked from LCD vendors. The firm had started legal action against various screen vendors, including Samsung, in 2011. ®

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