An appeals court ruled last week that Canon had not broken its license with Applied Nanotech Holdings for the company’s SED — surface-conduction electron-emitter display — technology. SED is a novel flat panel display technology that puts tiny electron emitters behind each sub-pixel. The result is an extremely thin panel that produces an emissive image similar to that of a picture tube (CRT) television.
Canon had partnered with Toshiba a few years ago to create some initial prototypes that wowed visitors to CES and other trade shows. The panels showed impressive color with outstanding black levels. Applied Nanotech threw a wrench in the works by claiming that only Canon had licensed their technology, and that including Toshiba in the venture was a violation.
This court ruling appears to clear the way for Canon to start up again with its SED program, now that it has bought out Toshiba’s interest. Applied Nanotech has not announced whether or not it plans to appeal the court’s ruling, but it may be moot at this point. Canon had already decided that they were not going to be able to produce the panels at a price that is competitive with LCD technology at this point, and was instead going to market the displays to video production companies for use as high-quality monitors. This further delay in initial production only increases the price gap with LCDs, as that technology has continued to wring out costs through increased volume and efficiency.
It remains a long shot that SED will ever be able to catch up to challenge LCDs in the mass market. It will be interesting to see whether or not Canon decides to even try at this point.