Sony, Others Investigated for Patent Infringement

Last Updated Mar 24, 2008 1:32 PM EDT

Innovation may make the tech world go round, but it's not always pleasant when the bill comes due. It's happening to Sony's Blu-ray disc players and a 29 other electronics makers using light-emitting and laser diodes in their products. A retired Columbia professor filed a complaint charging Sony et al with violating one of her patents, and now the U.S. International Trade Commission is now investigating the matter.

The plaintiff, Gertrude Neumark Rothschild, is a professor emeritus at Columbia who previously worked at Phillips from 1960 to 1985. Her engineering work involved blue and ultraviolet LEDs, which require less electricity than red LEDs and so are found commonly in screens on mobile devices, LED panels on devices, camcorders and traffic lights.

Blue and ultraviolet LEDs, which use less electricity than red LEDs, are used in computers, traffic lights, instrument panels and as the background color for mobile-phone screens.

One blog noted that Rothschild has previously sued solid-state lighting companies such as Cree and Toyoda Gosei. A press release from her attorneys says she has settled with Toyoda Gosei, Phillips and others.

There are some big names being investigated this time around by the U.S. ITC: Hitachi, Ltd., LG Electronics, Nokia, Pioneer, Samsung, Sanyo Electric, Sharp Electronics, Sony Ericsson Mobile and Toshiba. But Sony's Bluray is capturing a lot of the headlines because Bluray just won a long standards battle against Toshiba. And now this.

  • Kevin Kelleher

    Kevin Kelleher writes a regular stock column at TheStreet.com and is a contributor to Wired, Popular Science, and GigaOm. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor at Bloomberg News, Wired News, and The Industry Standard.