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3M Sues Consumer Electronics Companies Over Battery Patents

CDW, Hitachi, Lenovo, Matsushita Industrial Electric, Panasonic, and Sony are all named in the suit.

3M has filed a federal lawsuit accusing several major consumer electronics companies of infringing on its patents for technology found in lithium-ion batteries, a rechargeable power supply used in electronic devices ranging from mobile phones to notebook computers.

The complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota names as defendants CDW, Hitachi, Lenovo, Matsushita Industrial Electric, Panasonic Corp. of North America, Sony, and others. The suit seeks damages, which 3M argues should be tripled under the law for the defendants' "willful infringement." In addition, 3M wants the court to issue a permanent injunction stopping the defendants from violating the company's patents.

Sony on Thursday declined comment. "Officially, we have to decline comment, because we haven't seen the documents yet," spokesman John Dolak said. Other company representatives and lawyers for the defendants weren't immediately available for comment.

At issue is a range of materials 3M manufactures for lithium-ion batteries. The patented technology covered in the suit relates to cathode materials developed by 3M. A cathode is the positive electrode in batteries.

3M claims the defendants imported or sold patent-infringing lithium-ion batteries, or products that contained them. The company said in a statement that the suit was consistent with its policy of protecting its "substantial investments in new technology and in research and development by obtaining, maintaining, and enforcing intellectual property rights in inventions."

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