On December 15th, Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) filed a patent infringement lawsuit in U.S. district court against Japanese photography and imaging company Fujifilm (TYO:4901). At the center of Sony’s legal action are magnetic tape products marketed by Fujifilm which allegedly practice technology copied from Sony without a license. The case has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (S.D. Fla.).
In the official complaint filed by Sony, the company asserts a series of four patents, which it alleges Fujifilm of infringing through the sale of the company’s Linear Tape-Open (LTO) format magnetic tapes, specifically generation four, five and six LTO tapes (LTO-4, LTO-5, LTO-6). The patents being asserted by Sony are:
- U.S. Patent No. 7016137, titled Tape Drive Apparatus, Recording and/or Reproducing Method, and Recording Medium. It claims a tape drive apparatus with a means for detecting inconsistencies in read/write operations which can identify potential tampering.
- U.S. Patent No. 6345779, titled Data Storage Cartridge Having a Retainer for a Leader Pin. It protects a data storage cartridge with a new leader pin configuration which prevents the pin from becoming dislodged if the cartridge is dropped.
- U.S. Patent No. 6896959, entitled Magnetic Recording Medium Having Narrow Pulse Width Characteristics. This discloses a dual-layer magnetic recording medium using magnetic pigments in one of the magnetic layers.
- U.S. Patent No. 7115331, same title as ‘959 patent. It also claims a dual-layer magnetic recording medium which utilizes the characteristics of metallic pigments.
Three of the patents asserted here by Sony come from that corporation’s 2015 purchase of Imation, a company formed in the mid-1990s by American materials developer 3M (NYSE:MMM). Imation’s work in developing magnetic tapes go back to the 1940s, according to Sony’s complaint. Sony’s lawsuit requests relief including a permanent injunction against Fujifilm to end its sale of infringing products, damages for patent infringement and a judgement of willful infringement for enhanced damages.
This is not the first salvo fired by either side in this patent squabble between Sony and Fujifilm. This May, Fujifilm filed a Section 337 complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate possible patent infringement resulting from Sony’s sale of data storage tapes and cartridges. Fujifilm’s complaint lists a series of six patents which are infringed by Sony’s LTO-7 Ultrium 7 Data Cartridge and LTO-7 Library Pack. In June, the ITC decided to institute an investigation into Sony’s products based upon Fujifilm’s complaint. Last September, an administrative law judge (ALJ) presiding in the case granted a motion requested by Fujifilm to disqualify testimony given by Sony’s expert economic witness because that person testified on behalf of Fujifilm in the prior year.