More Delays for SED TV as Court Rules Against Canon in Breach-of-Contract Suit

AUSTIN, Tex. – Small Texas-based intellectual property firm Nano-Proprietary Inc. (NPI) has won an important round in its ongoing battle with Canon USA Inc. regarding surface-conduction electron-emitter-display (SED) TV technology. On Feb. 22, a Texas United States district judge ruled in NPI's favor in a breach-of-contract lawsuit it had brought against Canon regarding the use of technology key to SED TV, which has been touted as a potentially groundbreaking display technology.

The dispute stems from a 1999 agreement between the two companies in which NPI licensed its field-emission technology to Canon and Canon subsidiaries for $5.6 million. In 2004, Canon and Toshiba Corp. formed a joint venture called SED Inc. with the goal of bringing SED TV—a form of field-emission display—to market. While the success of SED TV relied on NPI's field-emission technology, NPI filed a suit against Canon USA in April 2005 saying Toshiba and SED Inc., were not, in fact, Canon subsidiaries, and therefore SED Inc.'s use of the NPI technology was illegal under the terms of the original contract.

Canon argued, however, that since it owned half of the stake in SED Inc., plus one share, the joint venture should qualify as a Canon subsidiary.

In an effort to avoid further litigation, Canon and Toshiba agreed in January 2007 that Canon would buy all of its partner company's stock in SED Inc. At the time, NPI requested that the court validate its December 2006 termination of its contract with Canon — a request that was granted with the Feb. 22 ruling.

NPI has expressed interest in negotiating new licensing agreements with both Canon and Toshiba; however, whether or not this will actually happen has not been confirmed by any of the involved companies. Because the latest ruling was not a final verdict in the case, a Canon representative could not comment on his company's plans from here. Representatives from NPI also declined to comment. The Canon spokesman did say, however, that plans for SED TV outside the U.S. will continue as planned.

"Canon still intends to launch an SED TV product in the fourth quarter of 2007 in Japan. While these will be produced in limited numbers, we have yet to provide any concrete figures," Canon representative Richard Berger said. "Beyond that, all of our plans regarding SED are currently under review and have yet to be decided."

According to a Reuters news service report, Canon Inc. Chairman Fujio Mitarai said in March that he expects Canon to win the dispute with NPI in the end and that his company will not give up its plans to bring SED TV to market. Mitarai also said Canon would not pursue mass production of the technology until it was sure SED would become a profitable business within three years, according to the Reuters report.

— Jessica Quandt

Dolby Laboratories Acquires BrightSide Technologies, Furthers Expansion into Display Industry

VANCOUVER, B.C. – In a $28 million deal, entertainment equipment giant Dolby Laboratories acquired Canadian High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology developer BrightSide Technologies on Feb. 27. Though Dolby is best known for its high-quality sound equipment, the company's acquisition of BrightSide is the latest signal of its desire to expand into the display industry.

BrightSide is a development-stage technology company focused on enabling the capture, distribution, and display of more vibrant video on mass-market liquid-crystal-display (LCD), front-projection and rear-projection TVs through its HDR technology.

"Dolby has a long history of working with professional content creators and consumer-electronics manufacturers to encode and decode multi-channel audio for an enhanced entertainment experience," explained Dolby Senior Public Relations Manager Jeanne Alford. "BrightSide represents an important element in Dolby's work with content creators and consumer-electronics licensees to produce a similar wow factor in the imaging side as we have in audio."

Dolby is currently working on a number of other initiatives to break into the display market, according to information on the company's Web site. The company has research and video-data-compression activities and, on March 12, debuted a new 3-D technology for Dolby Digital Cinema at the ShoWest Conference in Las Vegas.

"The company's recently announced acquisition of BrightSide complements Dolby's long-term focus to deliver new and compelling innovations that enrich the entertainment experience for consumers," Alford said. "We are currently focused on incorporating (BrightSide's) technologies under our technologies and licensing model, so it is still too soon at this point to discuss the specific product implementations."

— Jessica Quandt

Taiwan's First Flexible Electronics Pilot Lab to Focus on Flexible LC Films

HSIN CHU, Taiwan – Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is betting big on the future of flexible displays and other bendable electronics with the mid-March opening of its Flexible Electronics Pilot Lab, the first cooperative laboratory in the country capable of carrying out both research and development and large-scale pilot-line production for flexible electronics. One of the initial pilot projects will focus on flexible liquid-crystal (LC) films.

ITRI promises the lab will one day provide a comprehensive range of functions, from synthesizing materials and developing production processes, to product design and pilot production, serving as a platform for collaboration between international industry and academic programs and hastening the development of flexible electronics in Taiwan. ITRI said it expects total funding for the laboratory, which will come from the Taiwanese Government, ITRI, and local industry, to reach NT $300 million over the next 3 years.

"This is one of very few laboratories which can do pilot-run development in the entire world," said Dr. Jack Hou, the lab's director. "And not only for flexible displays, but for flexible photovoltaic films, flexible lighting, flexible sensor equipment—all of those areas are projects at ITRI."

The lab is now in the third stage of a five-step evolutionary roadmap. Stage 1 was the construction of an internal clean room in July 2006, followed at the end of the year by the installation of equipment for material evaluation and structure-of-design verifications. Stage 3 involves bringing in roll-to-roll equipment for patterning functional layers on flexible electronics. By September, the lab will have moved on to stage 4, bringing in additional process-development equipment. In the final stage, ITRI will form what it calls a roll-to-roll special interest group, or SIG, to align Taiwanese companies to develop the country's own roll-to-roll equipment for use by Taiwanese companies.

As the first three stages have progressed, ITRI has already formed two other SIGs, one of which focuses on flexible liquid-crystal film for displays. Out of about 60 companies that have signed on to work with the lab so far, ITRI carefully chose five to collaborate on its flexible LC film project. The LC film SIG includes Chi Mei Optoelectronics (CMO), chosen for its extensive experience in panels; Taiflex Scientific, for its work with flexible copper-clad laminates for the flexible printed-circuit industry; ContrelTechnology Co. Ltd., for its equipment; Bondtec Pacific Co. Ltd., for its plastic materials; and Shinkong for its work with substrates. ITRI's SIG member companies sign on for terms of two years, Hou explained, so the products incorporating this SIG's flexible liquid-crystal film should hit the market sometime in 2008.

— Jessica Quandt

Real D Acquires ColorLink, Aims to Expand 3-D Cinema Market

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Two 3-D technology developers have merged in an acquisition that both say will help 3-D cinema evolve from an entertainment novelty to a market force with mass appeal. Real D, which operates in excess of 700 3-D movie screens in 14 countries worldwide, announced its acqui-sition of ColorLink Inc., on March 8, making the Colorado-based photonics company a Real D subsidiary. Financial terms were not disclosed. ColorLink CEO and President Leo Bannon will become Chief Operating Officer of Real D.

The two companies began working together about two years ago, according to Real D President and co-founder Joshua Greer, when ColorLink helped Real D improve its Z-Screen, one of the base components of its 3-D cinema technology.

"We had originally purchased that technology from another company, but when we were looking at the cinema applications, we knew that we needed to make it considerably better," Greer said. "When we searched the world, there was really only one com-pany: ColorLink. They were really up to the task and we were really impressed early on with the quality and the talent that they had there."

ColorLink has also been Real D's supplier of liquid-crystal shutters and polarizing films and, according to Real D representatives, the two companies' similar pursuits and dedication to the improvement of the 3-D experience made them a natural match.

"In terms of what we do, which is fundamentally the manipulation of light, these guys are like the Jedis of that area," Greer commented on ColorLink. "It was pretty clear to us that we wanted to extend our commitment to the technology and to the improvement of the art, and that this was one of the best scientific vehicles that we saw that could get us there. I think the combined companies together really have the potential to transform visual experiences everywhere."

"More lifelike images translate to a more immersive, memorable, and enjoyable movie-going experience," a Real D spokeswoman added. "This ultimately will drive more consumer demand for the Real D 3-D experience and enable the continued rapid expansion of the Real D platform to theaters around the world."

 Jessica Quandt

Display Briefs

Toshiba America Electronic ComponentsInc. (TAEC), an independently operating company owned by Toshiba America Inc., announced on March 14 the appointment of Hideya Sakaida as its new President and CEO. Sakaida will oversee all administration, sales and marketing, and financial-management activities for TAEC. He replaces Takeaki Fukuyama, who has returned to Japan to continue his tenure at Toshiba's headquarters in Tokyo. Sakaida has been with Toshiba since 1978, serving as Managing Director of Toshiba Electronics Asia Pte. Ltd., before being appointed to his new position.

Fabless semiconductor and video technology development company Enuclia Semiconductor, Inc., on March 6 opened a new international design center in Taiwan. Located in the Nei-hu region, the new office will be staffed by display-industry veterans with an average of more than 10 years of TV-development experience, including numerous development projects with leading TV brands worldwide.

The U.S. Display Consortium (USDC) announced on March 28 it had elected Dr. Michael McCreary as chair of the USDC's governing board. McCreary, who is Vice President of Research and Advanced Development for E Ink Corp., replaces Dr. Diego Olego, who has chaired USDC's board since 2004. Several other new members were voted onto the board, including Dr. James R. Buntaine of Eastman Kodak Co.Dr. Steven Freilich of DuPont, and Daniel Gamota of Motorola.

Communications technology company 3D Icon Corp. announced on March 12 it had extended its Sponsored Research Agreement (SRA) with the University of Oklahoma (OU), committing the company to work with OU through 2010 on 3-D display technologies and related areas. The extension builds upon the previous two-stage work done in conjunction with 3DIcon. The third-phase research-and-development period will concentrate on work in areas such as swept-volume and volumetric display technologies including the application of nanomaterials to create vibrant, real-time systems. The agreement encompasses both continuing and new research and development in 3-D display technologies and related areas, including relevant software. Funding will be provided by 3DIcon through a financing agreement with Golden Gate Investors of San Francisco.


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