Channel In Wait-and-See Mode On LCD Patent Fight


Solution providers and system builders are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the possible impact of Sharp's move on Monday to file a U.S. lawsuit against Samsung Electronics for infringing on five of its patents related to LCD panels.

The suit seeks compensation for sales of products infringing on the five patents, including one related to enhancing LCD displays, and prohibitions against Samsung selling such products, according to a Reuters report. Reuters on Monday also reported that Samsung may countersue Sharp regarding LCD patents it owns.

It is one of a number of other ongoing lawsuits happening in the LCD panel industry, including Sharp's earlier filing of a lawsuit against Taiwan-based HannStar Display.

Todd Swank, director of marketing at Northern Computer Technologies, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder, said the suits come at a time when LCD supplies are constrained and prices are up.

"Word is, Dell had to sell all their branded LCD monitors to Wal-Mart, which has pushed its customers to go to other suppliers like NEC and ViewSonic," Swank said. "So it has cleared out the channel."

Swank said he does not expect any immediate impact from the lawsuits on LCD prices. "Prices for LCD glass, like memory and other components, change every day," he said. "Dell's buying up the channel, now that has an impact. Sharp's lawsuit of Samsung could be tied up in the courts for three years. Who knows what the prices will be then."

Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing at Bold Data Technology, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder, said the impact of the patent lawsuits should be limited, but that nothing is guaranteed.

The main concern is that they are part of a larger move by several vendors in the industry to sue each other over patent infringement, Kretzer said. "I'll have to look into this to see for us and our customers whether there is a broader implication than a spat between two companies," he said.

For Stephen Moll, director of operations at CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based solution provider and system builder, lawsuits like these in the beginning stages are interesting to watch, but typically of little concern.

"At this stage, it's usually not trickling down to us, unless it impacts pricing," Moll said. "It's more of a sideshow."

Similar lawsuits in related industries, such as in the memory industry, have had no real impact on price, Moll said. "But there are fewer LCD panel makers," he said. "But we're not seeing a price impact yet. Prices have been going up for other reasons."