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12/1/2009
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Nokia Sues LCD Makers

Phone giant accuses screen suppliers of colluding to artificially inflate prices.

Handset manufacturer Nokia has filed a price-fixing lawsuit against several companies that manufacture the liquid crystal displays Nokia uses in its phones.

Listed in the complaint are eleven LCD manufacturers, including Toshiba, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Shungwa Picture Tubes, and LG Display. Also named are Tatung Co., Seiko Epson Corp., Hitachi and AU Optronics.

Nokia, of Finland, filed the action in U.S. District Court for Northern California. The company also filed a similar complaint in a UK court.

Nokia alleges that collusion by manufacturers artificially inflated prices in the LCD market from 1996 to 2006. "Nokia suffered damages as a result," the company said in papers filed in the California court.

Nokia is seeking treble damages of an unspecified amount and a court injunction that would bar the manufacturers from continuing their alleged collusion.

Some of the companies named in the suit were previously found to be guilty of price fixing in an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. LG, Sharp, and Shungwa pled guilty and agreed to pay fines.

LCD screens are used in everything from mobile phones to netbooks, and have surpassed plasma screens as the technology of choice in the flat panel television market.

European trustbusters are also eyeing the LCD market. The EU's European Commission last week formally accused several companies of conspiring to fix the price of computer and television displays on the Continent.

Europe has been notably aggressive in policing monopolistic behavior in the tech market. EC authorities have filed complaints against Microsoft and Intel, among others, in recent years.

Nokia shares were up 2.11%, to $13.54, in pre-market trading Tuesday.

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