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Murata Loses Samsung Electro Chip Patent Decision

Murata Manufacturing Co. lost a patent ruling in its effort to keep Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co. from importing mobile-phone components into the U.S.

Samsung Electro didn’t violate Murata’s patent rights, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge James Gildea said in a notice on the Washington-based agency’s website. The findings are subject to review by the six-member commission, which has the power to ban imports of products found to infringe U.S. patents.

No violation occurred “in the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation,” according to the notice.

The dispute is over ceramic capacitors, a component as small as a pencil tip that regulates the flow of current and stores energy in electronics including mobile phones, cameras and flat-screen televisions. Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electro has captured about 20 percent of the global market amid increasing demand for smartphones and tablet computers, according to Naoki Yamashiro, an analyst at Marusan Securities Co. in Tokyo.

A victory before the ITC could have helped Kyoto, Japan-based Murata increase its market share, said Amit Garg, an analyst at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo. Murata filed the complaint Oct. 1, 2009, with the ITC. The commission will announce in about 60 days whether it will review Gildea’s ruling. A final decision would be expected by April 22.

The commission is a quasi-judicial agency that investigates claims of unfair trade practices in U.S. markets. It has the power to order customs officials to ban imports of products found to infringe U.S. patents.

Murata’s Georgia Plants

In its complaint, Murata said it had manufacturing plants in Pennsylvania and Georgia that have been “substantially shut down” since 2004 “in part due to unfair competition from overseas manufacturers.” It still has employees in Smyrna, Georgia, who help engineer and perform testing of the capacitors, according to the complaint.

The three patents in the case relate to the structure and composition of the capacitors, which are made with multiple layers for higher performance, greater reliability and smaller size. The capacitors are put on circuit boards to store electric charges. The use of ceramic makes them cheaper and more stable.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Ceramic Capacitors and Products Containing Same, 337-692, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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