Sony Files Patent Lawsuit to Ban LG Mobile Telephones From U.S.

Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, filed patent-infringement claims seeking to block LG Electronics Inc. from shipping mobile phones to the U.S.

Sony filed the complaints Dec. 28 with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, and in a federal court in Los Angeles. The ITC, which is considering at least a dozen cases related to the expanding market for smartphones, has the power to block imports of products found to violate U.S. patents. The federal court can impose financial penalties.

LG phones including the Lotus Elite, Neon, Remarq, Rumor 2 and Xenon are using Sony technology without permission, Tokyo-based Sony said in the civil lawsuit. LG, the world’s third-largest maker of mobile phones, is also being targeted in Sony’s patent suit for its Blu-ray disc players. A copy of the ITC complaint wasn’t immediately available.

“Sony has been keen to protect its patents,” said Yuji Fujimori, a Tokyo-based analyst at Barclays Capital. “U.S. is an important market for Sony as its mobile phone venture with Ericsson is trying to win a bigger share.”

The Japanese electronics maker fell 1.3 percent to 2,919 yen as of 1 p.m. in Tokyo trading. LG gained 3.1 percent to 117,500 won in Seoul.

The eight Sony patents in the federal court case include ones related to a way to display telephone-number listings, direction keys on a portable phone and signal transmission.

John Taylor, a spokesman in the U.S. for Seoul-based LG, said the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

Smartphone Market

Sony plans to invest 100 billion yen ($1.2 billion) over the next fiscal year to double production capacity for image sensors used in smartphones. A company spokesman this week said an Asahi newspaper report that Sony may start selling a PSP handheld game machine equipped with a phone was “speculation.”

LG, which plans to begin sales in January of the first smartphone built with a dual-core processor, said Dec. 27 it’s trying to boost revenue at its consumer electronics, displays and handsets units by 13 percent in 2011.

The company lags behind Nokia Oyj and Samsung Electronics Co. in sales of mobile phones, according to researcher Gartner Inc. Global sales of all models of mobile phones to end users rose 35 percent in the third quarter to 417 million units, Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner said last month. There were 80.5 million smartphones sold.

The ITC typically completes its investigations in about 15 months, faster than the district courts.

Sony’s ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Mobile Telephones and Modems, Complaint No. 2777, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington). The civil suit is Sony Corp. v. LG Electronics USA Inc., 10cv9967, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Los Angeles).