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Bright LCD Patent Dispute 291

Posted by samzenpus
from the that-was-my-idea dept.
pcp_ip writes "Honeywell filed suit Wednesday against 34 companies (including, Apple, Dell, Sony, Kodak, Fuji et al.) for infringment of patent 5,280,371. The patent for "a directional diffuser for a liquid crystal display" was filed on January 1994 and enables "a display to produce a brighter image without requiring additional power." Honeywell is looking for an injunction to prevent the defendants from continuing to infringe its patent, and for "damages adequate to compensate them for Defendants infringement." So much for LCD prices coming down! Where's OLED when you need it?"
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Bright LCD Patent Dispute

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  • by mfh (56) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:41PM (#10462979) Homepage Journal
    Kodak, eh? Oh isn't Karma [slashdot.org] a bitch? :-)
    • Re:Karma for Kodak (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:53PM (#10463154) Homepage
      To be fair, Kodak probably learned about patents first hand when Polaroid sued them (and won $900 million) [about.com]. Then, to add insult to injury, since Kodak couldn't make film for their instant cameras anymore, they had to spend about $500 million more dollars paying off those who had bought them.

      Ouch.

      Though I expect that Sun will ultimately prevail when they appeal this case. Still, the only real winners when patents get involved are the lawyers.

      • Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ender Ryan (79406) < > on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:31PM (#10463664) Journal
        Furthermore, everyone I know who had one of Kodak's instant cameras thought they were much, much better than Poloroid.

        So much for innovation, eh?

        And now, Kodak sues Sun similarly. The abused becomes another abuser. The circle continues.

    • Re:Karma for Kodak (Score:2, Insightful)

      by claygate (531826)
      It seems that eventually all the big companies will be engaged in the deadly embrace with each other. Every company will have 10 companies sueing it and will be sueing 10 companies. They will all settle into the mutually assured disruption. Nothing will have been accomplished besides a bunch of lawyers walking away with money that could be better spent on sceintists and engineers creating more shiney things to play with.
  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ivan256 (17499) * on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:42PM (#10462993)
    Apple and Dell don't even make LCD panels... All they do OEM panels from various manufacturers and put them in a plastic housing with some accessory electronics...

    Surely it would be the manufacturer that's infringing, right?
    • Re:But... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by paranode (671698) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:45PM (#10463030)
      Surely it would be the manufacturer that's infringing, right?

      Which also brings up the question of whether an LCD manufactured outside the US falls under the protection of this patent. Any thoughts on that?
      • Perhaps this is why Apple etc are being sued... Im sure the law doesnt allow you to simply get around patents by simply buying from a country where the patent protection did not apply. And if they are getting their equipt this way they are the point of entry and therefore responsible for the alleged infringement.
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

        by nacturation (646836) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `noitarutcan'> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:52PM (#10463143) Journal
        Which also brings up the question of whether an LCD manufactured outside the US falls under the protection of this patent. Any thoughts on that?

        US patents apply to any products sold in the US regardless of where they're manufactured. Otherwise, patents wouldn't mean anything as you could simply manufacture products outside the country, import them, and sell them with impunity.
      • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

        by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m ail.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:54PM (#10463160)
        "(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent."
        271 USC 35
        • Re:But... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by thedillybar (677116)
          >"(a) Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent."
          271 USC 35

          So if I sell one of these on eBay, I may be in violation of patent law? That's scary...

        • So this also means that honeywell could sue any of the customers of any of the sued companies, as all the customers are users.

          This seems the other side of the SW patent coin, and potentially very harmful for business and the economy. Can a company buying a commodity product, realistically expected to research all the possible patents? this is really he job of the part manufacturer.
    • Lawsuit 101: You go for the deep pockets with the shotgun approach.
    • ... thinking on a more global scale and decades instead of years, might there be any consequences if a huge part of the globe realizes the possible conclusion that the scope of USPTO patents should be restricted to where they belong?

      CC.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:43PM (#10463002)
    are belong to Honeywell.

    Set us up the patent.
  • BUT..

    why are they suing the people who are selling the LCDs? Why not go after the people who are actually infringing? IE. the manufacturers of these devices?

    As everyone (should) know, there aren't very many companies that actually make these things..
    • by shotfeel (235240) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:57PM (#10463193)
      Why not go after the people who are actually infringing? IE. the manufacturers of these devices?


      Well, "The two largest LCD manufacturers, LG.Philips LCD and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., have previously taken licenses under this fundamental patent."

      So, me not knowing the market, I'm wondering who the remaining manufacturers are. From the list of companies, I get the feeling their going after companies that have made products using smaller LCD displays (Apple - iPod, camera manufacturers, etc). So who's making those displays?

    • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@ g m ail.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:59PM (#10463225)
      From reading the relevant statutes [cornell.edu] it sounds like both manufacturer and distributer is culpable.

      I don't see an article, and the summary only lists like 3 of 34 companies being sued, so they are probably going after everyone.
    • Deeper pockets.

      If they go after a specialized manufacturer whose primary business is making this stuff, they will never recover their losses because their losses exceed the manufacturer's net worth. Probably all they could get is future marginal profits, which is far less than they would have made from patent monopoly.

      But by going after the big companies that have multiple lines of business, they can get as much money as the court settlement awards them. There's no problem with finding assests that the

  • Hall of Fame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bstadil (7110) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:44PM (#10463019) Homepage
    How many companies initiating "major" Patent INfringement cases can you name?

    How are they doing in the market place!

    I can think of SCO, Kodak, Unisys and now Honeywell. I will venture all is not well at the little Honey

    • Re:Hall of Fame (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thedillybar (677116) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:07PM (#10463338)
      >I can think of SCO, Kodak, Unisys and now Honeywell. I will venture all is not well at the little Honey

      Honeywell patented this in 1994, developed it, and sold it. Then someone came along, took the idea, and started selling the product before the patent expired.

      This is exactly what patents are supposed to prevent. Why are you guys giving them so much crap for doing something about it?

      • Because it doesn't seem to be timely. These LCDs aren't new; nor have they recently been modified to include the patented feature. And there's certainly no reason Honeywell wouldn't have known about the alleged infringement before now. So why did Honeywell delay in bringing the lawsuit? The most likely answer seems to be to increase possible damages and to let the companies become dependent on the technology.
      • This is exactly what patents are supposed to prevent. Why are you guys giving them so much crap for doing something about it?

        Well, for one hand, they didn't tell the first LCD panel manufacturer "Hey, stop doing that immediately!"

        They waited for LCD popularity to grow large enough, and for enough companies to be involved, so they could get major cash at the end.

      • Re:Hall of Fame (Score:3, Insightful)

        by back_pages (600753)
        This is exactly what patents are supposed to prevent. Why are you guys giving them so much crap for doing something about it?

        What's more is that the patent at issue here has fewer than 6 claims, they are written in clear English, the entire application is fewer than 20 pages, and it is directed toward a physical, tangible invention.

        To answer your question, because the Slashdot groupthink regarding patents is completely reTARded. There is no basis in fact, there is no interest in learning the facts, and

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:44PM (#10463024)
    http://www.honeywell.com/sites/portal?smap=honeywe ll&page=pressrel_detail&theme=T8&id=A76N12RRDKX3GS IB1JIFWSY92LOX9108H&catID=cat1b754a4-fb536f3d74-3e 3e4447ab3472a0c2a5e5fdc1e6517d&c=n

    Honeywel l Files Lawsuit Against 34 Electronics Companies For Infringing Patented LCD Technology

    MORRIS TOWNSHIP, New Jersey, October 6, 2004 -- Honeywell (NYSE: HON) today filed a lawsuit against 34 electronics companies claiming infringement of a Honeywell patent for technology that increases the brightness of images and that reduces the appearance of certain interference effects on a liquid crystal display (LCD).

    Honeywell&#146;s lawsuit claims the company&#146;s patented technology is being used in a variety of consumer electronics products, including notebook computers, cell phones, personal digital assistants, portable DVD players, portable LCD TVs, video game systems, and digital still cameras.

    "Honeywell invests millions of dollars in research and development every year, and we aggressively defend our intellectual property to protect that substantial investment,&#148; said John Donofrio, Vice President of Intellectual Property at Honeywell.

    Honeywell's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the district of Delaware, asks for monetary damages and an injunction to prohibit selling products that infringe its patent.

    "The two largest LCD manufacturers, LG.Philips LCD and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., have previously taken licenses under this fundamental patent," said Donofrio. "Honeywell has a long history of successfully licensing proprietary technologies worldwide for non-competing uses as a core component of our strategic business model," Donofrio said. "We are pleased that LG.Philips and Samsung Electronics are benefiting through their licenses from our technology."

    Defendants named in Honeywell&#146;s lawsuit are:

    - Apple Computer, Inc.
    - Argus a/k/a Hartford Computer Group, Inc.
    - Audiovox Corporation
    - Casio Computer Co., Ltd.
    - Casio, Inc.
    - Concord Cameras
    - Dell Inc.
    - Eastman Kodak Company
    - Fuji Photo Film Co., Ltd.
    - Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc.
    - Fujitsu Limited
    - Fujitsu America, Inc.
    - Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc.
    - Kyocera Wireless Corp.
    - Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co.
    - Matsushita Electrical Corporation of America
    - Navman NZ Limited
    - Navman U.S.A. Inc.
    - Nikon Corporation
    - Nikon Inc.
    - Nokia Corporation
    - Nokia Americas
    - Olympus Corporation
    - Olympus America, Inc.
    - Pentax Corporation
    - Pentax U.S.A., Inc.
    - Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.
    - Sanyo North America
    - Sony Corporation
    - Sony Corporation Of America
    - Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB
    - Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications (U.S.A.) Inc.
    - Toshiba Corporation
    - Toshiba America, Inc.

    Honeywell International is a $23 billion diversified technology and manufacturing leader, serving customers worldwide with aerospace products and services; control technologies for buildings, homes and industry; automotive products; turbochargers; and specialty materials. Based in Morris Township, N.J., Honeywell&#146;s shares are traded on the New York, London, Chicago and Pacific Stock Exchanges. It is one of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow Jones Industrial Average and is also a component of the Standard & Poor's 500 Index. For additional information, please visit www.honeywell.com

    This release contains forward-looking statements as defined in Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including statements about future business operations, financial performance and market conditions. Such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties inherent in business forecasts as further described in our filings under the Securities Exchange Act.

    Contact:
    Ron Crotty
    602-436-6823
    • "Honeywell invests millions of dollars in research and development every year, and we aggressively defend our intellectual property to protect that substantial investment," said John Donofrio, Vice President of Intellectual Property at Honeywell.

      Surely an aggressive defense doesn't entail sitting on a patent for 10 years before trying to stop anyone from using your technology. This sounds more like an aggressive offensive use of intellectual property, meant primarily to inconvenience companies that compe
      • Repeat after me...THIS IS NOT A SUBMARINE PATENT!

        Honeywell not only makes LCDs, but they have licensed this technology to some of the largest, consumer LCD companies such as LG & Samsung. What a trip huh?

  • by SeanTobin (138474) * <byrdhuntr AT hotmail DOT com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:45PM (#10463025)
    From reading the patent it looks like Honeywell actually had a decent and possibly novel invention. I say possibly because the solution they propose is obvious to anyone trying to solve their particular problem, however no one before had tried to solve their problem hence its originality. Now... as to exactly what Honeywell's problem is...

    They decided that in displays used in situations like fighter jets, air traffic control towers and commercial airlines, having displays "bleed" out of the angle of view is not desirable. For instance, you don't want a reflection of your cockpit display in the corner of your eye from the canopy. They designed a "system of lenses" to reduce this out-of-angle light and redirect it to viewing angles.

    The problem seems to come when they filed for the patent on the system. Instead of describing the system as a way to limit/redirect unused/undesired light they wrote it as a system to increase the amount of desired light. My guess as to why is because it's much easier to sue someone trying to make their displays brighter than it is to find someone trying to make their displays darker.

    The reason I say that they intended to sue/collect royalties from every manufacturer was because they went ahead and sued every single manufacturer. They did not attempt to license their technology (but of course they wouldn't... Because Honeywell also manufacturers LCD's. They'd love to put their competitors out of business.) This is all just an abuse of the patent/court system to try and get ahead... too bad it works so well.

    Oh, and I have some prior art. You see, I'm sure someone had an LCD with some backlights about 10 years ago, and wanted it to be brighter in the area they were viewing... so they put a MIRROR behind it. What a novel idea! They should have patented it.
    • Every invention is obvious "after the fact". An internal combustion engine is so simple in concept, practically anyone could design and build one given the time and tools.

      But, mankind went 2000 years without it.

      Honeywells solution looks obvious to you in hindsight, but it's actually fairly novel.

      The "obvious" solution to the brightness problem is brighter lightbulbs, not an array of lenses and other optics.
    • by indros13 (531405) * on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:11PM (#10463390) Homepage Journal
      I'm not too clear on the scope of the patent, but I should point out that Honeywell DID license their technology. From the article, "The two largest LCD manufacturers, LG.Philips LCD and Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., have previously taken licenses under this fundamental patent," said Donofrio.

      I would also add that sometimes patenting actually serves the greater good. There's a lot of knee-jerk mentality on Slashdot toward any large corporation that tries to defend its IP. But if patent law works well (which it may or may not), it both rewards the inventor and adds knowledge to society. I'm sure there are plenty of examples (lightbulbs? toilets?). [not to be construed as support for this particular case]

      • The issue I take is that they waited _10 years_ before deciding to sue about it.

        I think that patents should take a "defend it or lose it" viewpoint. No more of these "submarine" patents!

        Within 6 months of a product coming to mass market that may infringe on the patent the patent-holder should be required to notify the product maker that they _may_ be in violation of the patent. (There needs to be a reasonable belief)

        If a product has been on the market for over the 6 months and the patent holder does not
    • I believe the doctrin of laches [converium.com] would protect the other manufactures. From the linked article:

      Laches enables the infringer to avoid liability if the patent holder delays too long before commencing litigation. The doctrine flows from the longstanding, fundamental legal principle that equity will not protect those who sleep on their rights.

      [...]

      The U.S. Supreme Court has long held the laches defense applicable to patent infringement cases. The defense contains two elements:

      The patent holder delayed brin

      • by westlake (615356) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:05PM (#10464034)
        From the same article:

        Laches differs from a statute of limitations in that it fails to constitute a complete defense against patent holders' lawsuits. Patentees against whom the laches defense has been successfully invoked are barred from collecting only those damages that accrued prior to filing suit. /5/ Patentees may recover damages flowing from infringing conduct that takes place after commencement of an infringement action, even where the accused infringer successfully invokes the laches defense. Accordingly, interposition of laches does not permit the alleged infringer to lawfully continue the infringing conduct. Continued infringement remains the subject of litigation that may require settlement, entering into licensing agreements that require the payment of royalties to the patentee or paying the burdensome cost of patent infringement litigation while facing an uncertain outcome. As a practical matter, infringing activity often diminishes substantially or ceases entirely after suit is commenced.

        It is perhaps worth adding that the technology exposed in a patent may not be commercially viable and therfore worth stealing until many years after the patent is issued.

  • As I wear polarized glasses most of the time, and the directional diffuser makes it nearly impossible to read many laptop screens.

    However, my IPAQ doesn't seem to have one- anybody else able to see or have problems with directional diffusers who can verify this?
    • try to get your hands on an LCD lacking the polarized portion of the coating, then only people with polarized glasses could see the screen
    • I briefly had polarized glasses like that and saw many screens, and it's true, the iPaq was fine somehow. What stunk for me was that my lenses were slightly different from each other, so while one eye was seeing a half-brightness screen, the other was seeing a full-brightness screen, and it gave me a wickedly bad headache in about 15 minutes.

      On the other hand, walking around my office of mostly LCDs, the flickering I kept seeing reminded me of that old Captain Power show... I kept wanting to get a laser g
    • Some ATM's have them on their LCD displays. Took me a little bit to figure out why I couldn't see the screen when I had my sunglasses on.
    • I agree about them being bad. The screen on my Dell laptop looks pants next to my mates HP/Compaq/Whatever they're called this week. Specifically when you have a light gret area next to a white area (e.g. the /. IT theme). From a normal angle you can't see the difference, and from a high angle, they're actually reversed with the grey being brighter than the white.

      In fact the viewing angle is so small that the screen doesn't look consistent from top to bottom. This tech suddenly makes sense of this pr
    • The directional diffuser has nothing to do with polarization; LCDs depend on polarization effects anyway.

      The first claim of the Honeywell patent covers a backlight diffuser consisting of two sheets of cylindrical lenses between the backlight and the screen, with the front sheet having a larger number of lenses per unit height than the back, and both having more lenses per unit height than the number of lines per unit height of the display.

      The second claim covers the same device as the first claim specific
  • Reform is needed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Askjeffro (787652) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:46PM (#10463050)
    The problem with patents rears its ugly head again... I have a friend who recently graduated and got a job at a Patent lawyer at a large corporation. His whole job is looking over old patents and "checking" to see if there are any modern infringments, ie: who can we sue that has mad money off of something we couldn't. sigh...
    • This isn't a problem with patents, it's a problem with some companies using technology that they didn't liscense. There are major companies liscensing the technology from honeywell, they're suing the people who didn't liscense it. I don't see what's wrong here. Honeywell was making money off their idea, some people started using it before the patent expired without honeywell's permission, and now honeywell is suing them. Isn't that what the patent system is for?
  • 34 Companies? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TiggertheMad (556308) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:46PM (#10463054) Homepage Journal
    Just based off the number of companies that the plaintiff is filling against, this doesn't look to me like a case of someone deliberately stealing another's patented idea. It looks like a squatter sitting on an idea, and trying to extort money off of whoever happens to try to inovate.

    I'm all for the idea of patents, but this sort of thing just leaves a bad taste in your mouth...
    • Honeywell isn't squatting. They make LCDs for flight decks in aircraft. Now, if they didn't do that, then yes, they could be squatting.

      Patents could be considered a way of squashing innovation altogether, but Honeywell is doing business as usual.

    • The number would be higher, but there are companies who make LCD screens who have licensed this technology...and companies who sell these non-infringing screens.
  • Wrong! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blackmonday (607916) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:46PM (#10463061) Homepage
    The Patent was actually filed July 9, 1992. I've got an idea for some patent reform: Let your patent get knowingly infringed for 1 year - lose the patent.

    • That is similar to the wat trademarks work. Only problem for products is the "knowingly" part. Although, considering this patent infringement has been going on for at least 4 years (Anyone got a better estimate?) I would say you do have a point.
    • Re:Wrong! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SagSaw (219314) <slashdot@[ ]ss.org ['mmo' in gap]> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @07:23PM (#10465949)
      I can think of two reforms that might work better and be more practical than forbidding that a paten be knowingly infringed:

      First, patent applications are currently kept secret for 18 months following the date of application. (IANAL, so I may be a bit off on this). My suggestion is to keep patent applications and patents themselves secret for 18 months following application. If somebody else "invents" the same thing during that 18 month period, that should be considered proof that the content of the patent is obvious and non-innovative.

      Second, don't allow patents that are simply a unique combination of existing inventions. That way, you couldn't simply patent using Widget A and Widget B together. If an "invention" is required to use Widget A and Widget B in combination, that invention could be patented.

      I recently ran accross a patent at work from one of our competitors (expired BTW). Basically, it patented printing a particular type of potentiometer (already invented) onto a flexible film (already invented). Nothing in the claim indicates that anything new needed to be invented to use the two in combination. As a result, I really have a hard time imaging how the public received any benifit from what the inventor disclosed in the patent. If the inventor had to invent a material, process, etc. in order to print a potentiometer onto a flexible film, those inventions are the patent system should allow.

      Likewise, if Widget A and Widget B can be used togther to do something that isn't possible with existing inventions, you could patent the use of Widget A and Widget B together to accomplish that goal. In the above case, printing the potentionmeter on a flexible film allows the potentiometer to fit in a smaller volume, and could be used to improve the linearity of a rotary potentiometer by arranging the potentiometer in a configuration that wouldn't work if the potentiometer were printed on a rigit substrate. (BTW, how one might arrange the potentiometer to achieve this advantage isn't mentioned in the patent)
  • This patent litigation is really getting absurd. I find it hilariously ironic that Kodak is named here after just crowing about its software patent win over Sun last week.

    Now, just get Sun to file something against HP and you've got a three way standoff. Schweet! Get some popcorn and enjoy the show!

  • Links to news sites (Score:5, Informative)

    by tearmeapart (674637) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:49PM (#10463100) Homepage Journal
    Another day of sloppy articles. Here are a few links to news sites concerning this item:
  • by eagl (86459) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:53PM (#10463150) Journal
    Maybe I'm going against the grain here, but I am pleased to see a patent for an actual physical implementation of a technology being defended, instead of all the bogus so-called "software patents" we've been hearing about for the last few years. Some patents are quite reasonable and legit, but with all the st00pid bogus patents getting all the press lately even legit patents are getting a bad rap.

    Kudos for Honeywell, a company you don't hear about throwing it's weight around all the time, defending a patent that describes a process and physical implementation that actually DOES something. If they'd patented a method for vertical alignment of viewing sensors in front of a display apparatus to maximize contrast and enhance look-angle (ie. the up-down adjustment on your office chair), then we'd have reason to throw rotten fruit, but this patent seems to be a legitimate technological concept.

    Give them a break... Rightous patents should be defended rigorously or there is no incentive to do core research. Don't let the flood of worthless patents or the incompetence of the patent examiners destroy the legitimate use of the patent system.
    • Just because someone patented a physical implementation of a technology, doesn't mean that they were the actual innovators or that their patent is valid. This post [slashdot.org] seems to indicate that the patent isn't valid.

      Sure, this isn't another "we own Linux" type case, but that doesn't make it any more valid.

      Taft

    • Give them a break... Rightous patents should be defended rigorously or there is no incentive to do core research. Don't let the flood of worthless patents or the incompetence of the patent examiners destroy the legitimate use of the patent system.

      In general, I agree with you. However, in this instance, Honeywell sat on a patent for something close to a decade, waited for the tech to become ubiquitous, and then sued everyone in sight. If they had jumped on the first company to infringe on their patent as
      • But stay quiet for 10 years, offer no licensing options

        Then why are LG and Samsung, the biggest LCD manufacturers, named as companies that licence said technology?

  • Sony is doing OLEDs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by js7a (579872) <james&bovik,org> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:55PM (#10463173) Homepage Journal
    The new Sony CLIE PEG-VZ90 [i4u.com] has a 480×320x16b OLED display. Available in Japan only, at present. A bigger picture and some news links here [pocketpcthoughts.com].
  • Grr. (Score:3, Funny)

    by boredMDer (640516) <pmohr+slashdot@boredmder.com> on Thursday October 07, 2004 @02:58PM (#10463217)
    God damnit.

    I work for Honeywell.

    Now, who to vote for, Honeywell or Apple...
  • that use this?

    I may be wrong on that one, but I believe they use these things on some of their military electronics displays. Even if the display is manufactured by another company, they'll slap one of these bad boys on the ass end of it and the display will be like "WOW!" and put out more.
  • Unobvious? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JayBlalock (635935) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:08PM (#10463354)
    I thought one of the requirements to be a valid patent is to be unobvious. Now, if, in the time from when they applied for the patent until now, THAT many companies have independently come up with the same basic solution as was patented... doesn't that by simple definition mean that the solution is, in fact, QUITE obvious?

    It seems to me that aspect alone should defeat most "submarine" patents. Unless you can prove that they knowingly stole your idea, the scope of the lawsuit should automatically invalidate your patent.

    But then, I'm not a lawyer, and I'm foolish enough to attempt to hold government bodies up to standards of common sense...

    • Re:Unobvious? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sexylicious (679192) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:10PM (#10463378)
      1) They've been using this idea for YEARS. (I'm pretty sure of this.)

      2) Just because it's obvious after the fact of their filing doesn't negate the fact that they filed first and therefore were the "innovators" for the idea.
      • Re:Unobvious? (Score:4, Informative)

        by JayBlalock (635935) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:17PM (#10463456)
        Yes, but in theory, merely filing first isn't proof that an idea is unobvious. It just means you're the first person to happen to come across and solve a certain problem. When LCDs first came out, it was inevitable that folks would want to make them brighter. If everyone stumbles upon the same basic solution, then that DOES mean the solution was obvious - the patenter was merely the first to find an obvious thing. That doesn't make it patent-worthy.

        In other words: A) Figuring out how to make an LCD screen: pretty unobvious.

        B)Thinking to stick a mirror behind it to increase light going outwards: Very obvious.

        (yes, I know it's more complex than that, but it serves as an example)

    • Re:Unobvious? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kidgenius (704962) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:17PM (#10463464)
      Ever think that these companies didn't come up with the "original" idea either? What if Honeywell developed and patented this idea. Then, they write a paper that is published in many tech journals. Now imagine that all of these other companies look at this paper and say "hey, let's try to do something like that and hope we don't get caught." How do you think LG & Samsung knew about this technology so they could license it?

      Also, what if instead of reading those tech magazines, the small companies trying to compete against Samsung & LG realized that they both use a similar method, and concluded (incorrectly) that is was something that did not have a patent, because both major LCD companies had this technology in use. Honeywell is definately not the first name in consumer LCDs. Wouldn't surprise me in the least that some other companies copied this design under the false assumption that it was not a patented idea.

    • I thought one of the requirements to be a valid patent is to be unobvious.

      The word "obvious" has about as clear a definition as the word "obscene." Like obscenity, what is not obvious to one person may be obvious to another.

      The introduction of the word "obvious" into the legal language leads to the same sorts of problems as those suffered by laws banning "obscene" material.

      We need to face up to the fact that this "obvious/not obvious" criterion for whether something can be patented is much too vague.

  • Screw OLED! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Weaselmancer (533834)

    Here's why:

    So much for LCD prices coming down! Where's OLED when you need it?

    Wrong! The problem here is not OLED!

    The problem here is the fucking stupid patent system! Submarine patents should be illegal. If you want a lottery ticket, go buy one. Don't clutter up the courts with nonsense bullshit gold digging.

    And don't turn a blind eye to companies who pull this horseshit. Don't just roll over and take it. "Here's hoping OLED comes out soon"??? Bullcrap. Here's hoping the US Courts System

    • The problem here is the fucking stupid patent system! Submarine patents should be illegal. If you want a lottery ticket, go buy one. Don't clutter up the courts with nonsense bullshit gold digging.

      What's submarine about this? As several others have pointed out, Honeywell has been using this in their own military products, and has licensed it to multiple large manufacturers of LCD panels. Now Honeywell discovers that some other manufacturers are infringing on the patent so they take them to court. Thi

  • Seems like Honeywell just waited for their patent to get used and now wants to sue everyone for using what they thought they had the right to. Perhaps a good patent reform would require that to be liable for patent infringment one had to have knowledge that a patent was being violated otherwise the patent holder is only entitled to future royalties.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @03:26PM (#10463586)
    was filed on January 1994

    Took them 10 years to figure out that they're being infringed upon? Not a company I'd want to own stock in.

    Or is this an outright scam? Wait until everyone is using it and then sue, as opposed to telling them in the beginning and letting them decide to license, work around, or do without.

    If this has been a scam to wait until it is widely adopted, and then ask for all back royalities, the patent should be invalidated for lack of notice and enforcement, and Honeywell should be given NOTHING!

    • I don't see anything about people using the technology since 1994. It says Honeywell filed the patent in 1994. 2 major companies (LG and Samsung) have liscensed the technology. The companies they are suing have used the technology and have not liscensed it. Honeywell has every right to sue them.
  • Someone mentioned that soon we'd be calling every ridiculous patent case a kodak moment. Here's to the first of many, many, MANY kodak moments to come! :-(
  • Funny how it takes them 10 years to cry foul and say we want our money.. Given LCD displays recently became popular in the last 4 years but still they had been around much longer than that just extremely expensive.

    Once again we see the trend..

    Patent X
    Quietly waits until it's popular
    Profit!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:01PM (#10463997)
    IBM. Why? Probably because IBM has so many patents up the wazoo that to sue it for patent infringement will almost certainly result in a countersuit for twice as much for twice as many patents. What's the moral of the story? The best defence against idiotic patents is to have more idiotic patents than everyone else.
  • by evil_one666 (664331) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:02PM (#10464003)
    As a software engineer, I have no clue about the technology involved in making an LCD screen brighter without using extra power, but the idea dazzles me and my first reaction was that this company SHOULD uphold its patent basically because I dont understand how it works.

    It struck me that I NEVER agree with any of the software patents that are proposed by various entities, because I generally have a deep understanding of how the relevant technology operates.

    This is why I understand why it is so difficult to educate laymen of the dangers of software patents. I too am swayed by aruments for patents if I am impressed by technology I dont understand
  • by adzoox (615327) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:03PM (#10464007) Journal
    If I am not mistaken ... Apple has made investments in the LCD lines of Samsung and LG Philips (through Chi Mei Electronics)

    If I am also not mistaken this included sharing patent and development knowledge between Apple and said companies.

    Since Apple may move to OLED or another technology and be involved in it's creation, enhancement and deployment - maybe they could offer Honeywell a piece of that pie to be "dropped" from litigation.

    Otherwise - I think Honeywell is unjustly going after the computer makers because they are simply OEM and ODM from essentially 4 main conglomerates: Samsung, Sharp, LG Philips, Mitsubishi - there are smaller players in abundance but these four control about 80% of the market.
  • So, Whos "BEF" (brighness Enhancing Film) have these LCD manufacturing been buying? Who is really at fault? The defendants? The LCD manufactures? 3M for manufacturing BEF II? Mr. Fresnel?

    The practical application of light has been around for a very long time. Look at the fluorescent lights above your head (if your at work), What kind of lenselets or diffuser is being used? Look at the tail lights on cars, the red plastic is internally (or sometimes externally) covered with bumps(lenses) to redirect the li

  • Hold on. (Score:5, Informative)

    by outZider (165286) on Thursday October 07, 2004 @04:20PM (#10464217) Homepage
    If Samsung has licensed the patent, and Apple or Dell use Samsung LCD panels, doesn't that make Apple or Dell clear, or do you have to double license? That seems fishy.
  • What's wrong with patenting LCD displays? I, for one, welcome our new security-conscious overlords.

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