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Samsung, SanDisk Tangle In CourtOver Patents Again

Samsung and SanDisk reignited long dormant legal battles when Samsung filed a patent infringement suit against SanDisk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

The lawsuit alleges that SanDisk infringes four Samsung United States patents (5473563, 5514889, 5546341 and 5642309) and seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against unnamed SanDisk products as well as damages, attorney’s fees and cost of the lawsuit.

Legal wrangling between the two companies is nothing new. In 1996 SanDisk filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking the ITC to stop the importation into the United States of all NAND flash storage products manufactured by Samsung. The complaint asked the ITC to halt the importing of all end-user products containing Samsung NAND flash memory chips.

“We did this,” said a SanDisk spokesperson, “because we believed they were infringing on at least two of our patents.”

In 1997, the ITC ruled in favor of SanDisk and barred Samsung from bringing its flash products to the United States. The squabbles subsided when the two companies signed a cross-licensing agreement that allowed Samsung to enter the U.S. market with its flash products. That cross-licensing deal is now expiring.

Charles Van Orden, VP & general counsel for SanDisk, raised the issue of timing in a statement released last week.

“We believe this lawsuit is a tactical move on Samsung’s part in advance of the upcoming expiration in August, 2002, of their patent cross license with SanDisk,” Van Orden said.

“We intend to vigorously defend against this action,” Van Orden concluded.

Samsung declined to comment.