Nokia Sues Eight LCD Makers for Collusion

Nokia has filed suit against a number of top LCD panel manufacturers, accusing them of collusion and price fixing of flat screen displays all the way back to 1996. Because LCD panels are a relatively recent development, Nokia has included makers of CRT-based displays as well.

The lawsuit (here in PDF format) was filed on Nov. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. It covers a period between Jan. 1, 1996 to Dec. 11, 2006 during which Nokia says it overpaid for displays that went into its phones.

The suit names a number of defendants: LG Display, Samsung Electronics, Sharp, Hitachi, Toshiba, Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Epson Imaging Devices, Philips, Tatung, Seiko Epson and AU Optronics plus their American subsidiaries are named.

“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.”

Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant told the Associated Press and other news sources that the damages are “not insignificant.”

Durrant also said Nokia considers litigation as a “last resort” and is still open to agree “to appropriate compensation” with the companies.

Flat panel lawsuits aren’t new

It doesn’t get the headlines of Intel v. AMD, but flat panels sure are contentious. LG, Sharp and Chunghwa all recently got smacked with a $585 million fine by the Department of Justice for price fixing, which is the basis for Nokia’s suit.

In October, AT&T filed a lawsuit against many of the LCD makers Nokia is suing, also over inflated prices. And if that’s not enough work for the lawyers, Nokia also recently filed suit against Apple, alleging the iPhone infringes on 10 of Nokia’s patents.

At the same time, there has been fear of a panel shortage because many of the companies that make the glass shut down when the economy plunged into recession, and when demand picked up suddenly later in 2009, they weren’t ready to meet it. An LCD panel shortage for PC displays has been predicted by some market research firms to last into 2010.

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