Nokia Targets Samsung, Sharp, Others In Price Fixing Suit

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Top LCD manufacturers find themselves in Nokia's legal crosshairs this week following allegations of price fixing. Nokia last week filed suit against LCD vendors such as Samsung and Sharp, alleging collusion to fix the price of the LCDs Nokia uses in mobile phones. Nokia has also sued the vendors for allegedly doing the same thing with prices on cathode ray tube (CRT) displays.

"Nokia has filed suits to recover overcharges it paid as a result of cartel activities which are currently under government investigation," Nokia said in a statement. "When certain companies and management employees have already admitted participating in, or are indicted for, global price-fixing cartels involving components Nokia has purchased, it is reasonable for Nokia to seek redress."

The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Northen District of California in San Francisco. It covers a period between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 11, 2006 during which Nokia says it overpaid for displays that went into its phones. Nokia, which maintains the world's number one market share in mobile phones, names LG Display, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Hitachi, Toshiba and AU Optronics in the lawsuit.

Nokia didn't disclose how much it would seek in damages, and did not respond immediately to requests for comment by A Nokia spokesman told the Associated Press and other news sources that the damages are "not insignificant."

Price fixing suits against LCD makers have been ubiquitous in the past few years. In November 2008, LG Display, Sharp and Chunghwa Picture Tubes were handed $585 million in fines from the U.S. Department of Justice after pleading guilty to fixing the prices of LCDs over a five-year period. More recently, AT&T filed a similar lawsuit against several LCD makers in the same Northern District of California court.

Nokia also recently filed suit against Apple, alleging that Apple infringes on 10 of Nokia's technology patents with the iPhone.

Nokia is emerging from a tough year of declining earnings and flat mobile market share compared to 2008. The company recently said it would be reducing some research and development operations in Finland, Denmark and Japan, resulting in layoffs of about 3 percent of its 17,000 total R&D employees.

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