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Sisvel extends patent dispute with SanDisk

Posted: 15 Jan 2007     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MPEG  audio codes  SanDisk  audio code licence  technology licence 

Italian group Sisvel, which licenses and manages several digital audio coding patents on behalf of a number of European companies such as Philips and France Telecom, is putting more pressure on MP3 player maker SanDisc to settle an increasingly acrimonious patent dispute.

Sisvel said Jan. 11 that Italian fiscal police seized SanDisc MP3 players at an Italian outlet of the French retailer Auchan. The move followed rulings from the Criminal Court of Vicenze, northern Italy, earlier last week and additional seizures are expected in the coming days.

Meanwhile, it warns that SanDisc is launching yet more MP3 player models while refusing to pay licences for the technology.

Late last year, SanDisc said in its defence—having acknowledged the dispute with the Italian technology group—that it uses completely different technology in its MP3 players and thus believes it does not have to pay Sistel any royalties. SanDisk's recent legal troubles with its MP3 players follow the seizure at the International Funkaustellung in Berlin in early September last year when the German Police seized all of the MP3 players marketed as part of its "Sansa" product lines and the related advertising material exhibited at the SanDisc booth at IFA 2006.

The seizure in Berlin was recently confirmed by the Criminal Chamber of the Landgericht (regional court) Berlin in Germany. In its decision, the Berlin court also stated that it was "of the opinion that there are sufficient grounds for suspicion of deliberate patent infringement."

Sisvel has filed claims of patent infringement against SanDisc in The Netherlands, Germany, and the United Kingdom, claiming that SanDisk's MP3 players infringed patents that Sisvel licences and is seeking an injunction and damages. An additional lawsuit has also been filed by Audio MPEG, Sisvel's U.S. subsidiary.

The Italian group says that so far, all legal rulings to date have been favourable to it and Audio MPEG, including two instances where the U.K. Courts ordered SanDisc to reimburse legal fees to Sisvel.

However, in a statement late last month, SanDisc continued to insist that "an expert opinion from one of the founders of MP3 digital-audio compression substantiates SanDisk's position. San Disc is not infringing any patent in the patent litigation."

The patents at issue are essential for implementing MPEG 1 and 2, Layer I, II and III, and are licensed to over 800 companies, including leaders in the industry and competitors of SanDisk. The list of companies licensed under these patents includes Apple, Creative, Sony, Toshiba, Nokia, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, Panasonic, Packard-Bell and Archos.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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