Canon's announcement today that it will buy Toshiba's entire stake in their joint venture making SED TVs is likely to bolster the tech maker's case in a patent fight in the U.S. The venture was on the losing end of a court decision, which I recently wrote about.
That lawsuit was brought by Nano-Proprietary, a small Austin (Tex.)-based tech company, which said that its agreement to license tech to Canon wasn't supposed include Canon's venture with Toshiba, called SED Inc. The suit had complicated matters for the two Japanese firms because they were already facing delays of up to two years. Many analysts consider their technology to be the best of the flat-panel industry. But as with any new product, producing the surface-conduction electron-emitter displays, or SEDs, was so costly that they had opted to spend more time working out the kinks before getting started.
Canon (not Toshiba as my story had originally said) had argued that a slight majority in SEDs gives it the right to transfer Nano-Proprietary's technology to the venture, according to court filings. The court had disagreed. Now that Canon will own all of SED Inc., effective Jan. 29, Nano-Proprietary won't have anything to complain about, right? Maybe. The change is subtler than it appears, with Canon buying Toshiba's stake but also keeping all of Toshiba's engineers and even the president of SED Inc., who hails from Toshiba. It will be interesting to see how the court views this cosmetic change. All attention now focuses on the court's next move and how that will affect Canon's plan to start small-lot production of SED TVs for the Japanese market at the end of this year.