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7/31/2007
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Sony, 3M Reach Settlement In Patent Dispute

Under the settlement, Sony and Sony Electronics have agreed to license 3M-developed materials for cathodes in batteries.

Sony and 3M on Monday said they have reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit in which 3M accused the consumer electronics company and others of infringing on its patented technology found in lithium-ion batteries, a rechargeable power supply used in devices ranging from mobile phones to notebook computers.

Under the settlement, Sony and Sony Electronics have agreed to license 3M-developed materials for cathodes, which are the positive electrodes in batteries. Terms of the agreement were not released.

3M filed its lawsuit in March in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, naming as defendants CDW, Hitachi, Lenovo, Matsushita Industrial Electric, Panasonic Corp. of North America, Sony, and others. The suit sought damages that 3M argued should be tripled under the law for the defendants' "willful infringement." In addition, 3M wanted the court to issue a permanent injunction stopping the defendants from violating the company's patents.

3M claimed the defendants imported or sold patent-infringing lithium-ion batteries, or products that contained them. 3M claims it has invested significant resources in design, development, and commercialization of advanced material technologies, and believes its inventions over the last 10 years are pivotal to the development of next-generation high-performance batteries.

While unrelated to the 3M suit, Sony notebook batteries were responsible for the largest consumer electronics recall in history. Since last year, almost 10 million Sony lithium-ion batteries have been recalled due to incidents in which the devices burst into flames. Computer makers involved in the recalls have included Apple, Dell, Lenovo, Gateway, Acer America, and Toshiba.

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