Sharp Sues Samsung

Not since Godzilla took on Rodan have we seen a battle of oriental titans like this, even if the combat will take place within the staid confines of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. It’s good that Texans are used to events staged on a grand scale. The battle lines have been drawn, as Sharp has filed a patent infringement suit against Samsung, citing five LCD technology patents that the company believes has been infringed by Samsung products. According to reports, attempts at a negotiated settlement have failed to come up with a resolution, so Sharp has filed its suit.

It seems to me that no technical issue pushes people’s hot buttons more than the rights of intellectual property owners. Perfectly sane and level-headed people get all irrational and emotional when they start discussing topics such as Digital Rights Management (copy protection), distribution of copyrighted material such as music, and patents. One reason for the irrational responses is that you often end up defending some Big Corporation no matter which side you take. Some people will point out that inventors should have a right to protect their discoveries from being used without their permission. Others will argue that patent suits often are wielded as a weapon against a competitor.

My view is that patent holders should be allowed to defend their intellectual property, but that process must also include a defense of whether the patent is in fact valid. (The U.S. patent system does not do a sufficient job of determining the validity of a patent before it is issued.) And the side accused of infringement is innocent until a decision is rendered. It’s unfortunate that Sharp and Samsung have to go to court to settle this disagreement — and it still may be settled before the trial is completed — but it makes sense if both parties think that they are right.