Sharp Breaks Ground on Gen 10 LCD Panel Facility in Japan; Corning Announces Plans to Co-Locate Glass Plant on Premises

SAKAI CITY, Osaka Prefecture, Japan – Sharp Corp. broke ground on the manufacturing complex that will house the world's first Gen 10 liquid-crystal-display (LCD) panel fab on December 1.

Hailing the complex as the "Manufacturing Complex for the 21st Century" in a press release announcing the event, Sharp stated that its goal is to make this "a major industrial zone" that will include the horizontal deployment of its thin-film technology (TFT) for LCD-panel and solar-cell manufacturing. In addition, Sharp is inviting relevant infrastructure and material and equipment manufacturers to construct their plants on the site.

The first company to make that move is Corning Inc. The glass manufacturer announced on December 5 that its board of directors approved a five-year capital expendi-ture plan of $795 million to co-locate a glass manufacturing facility at the site. This is Corning's first major co-location with a customer.

Corning's investment will be incurred over a five-year period, with an initial capital expenditure of $400 million in 2008, according to a Corning press release. Glass-substrate production from the new facility is expected to meet Sharp's plan to begin mass production of LCD panels for large televisions at its new fab by March 2010. The LCD panel plant will be the first facility to use 10th-generation glass substrates (2,850 ´ 3,050 mm), the world's largest. According to Sharp, the plant will have initial capacity of 36,000 substrates per month, growing to a total input capacity of 72,000 substrates per month. The panels will be used in 40-, 50-, and 60-inch class LCD TVs.

This investment will enable Corning to be the first manufacturer of TFT-grade Gen 10 substrates and the primary supplier of Sharp's Gen 10 glass needs, Corning stated in a press release. The Gen 10 substrates manufactured at this facility will use Corning's EAGLE XG environmentally friendly glass composition

"Very large-size glass substrates offer superior economies of scale to display manufacturers, ultimately helping to make large LCD TVs more affordable for consumers," said Peter F. Volanakis, Corning president and chief operating officer.

In 2006, Corning signed a long-term supply agreement with Sharp for its Gen 8 fab.

"We are pleased to continue our close relationship with Sharp through this arrangement," said James P. Clappin, president of Corning Display Technologies. "The timing is right, since LCD televisions of increasingly larger size are quickly becoming a product of choice for consumers worldwide."

— Staff Reports

As the LCD Patent Lawsuits Turn: Sharp Sues Samsung in Korea, While LG.Philips LCD Settles With CPT

SEOUL, Korea – Patent lawsuit news continued to pervade the liquid-crystal-display (LCD) business in the fourth quarter of 2007. In early December, Sharp Corp. announced that it had filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in Seoul Central District Court in South Korea, seeking compensatory damages and the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of the infringing products in South Korea. This is the latest in a series of patent-infringement suits that have been filed around the world between the companies.

This followed news from mid-November that LG.Philips LCD had entered into a settlement agreement with Taiwan's Chunghwa Picture Tubes (CPT) to resolve their long standing disputes involving LG.Philips LCD's patented technology.

First, the Sharp-Samsung suit. According to a Sharp press release, the complaint alleges that liquid-crystal display (LCD) modules manufactured and/or sold by Samsung in South Korea and LCD TVs manufactured and/or sold by Samsung in South Korea that incorporate these LCD modules infringe upon three LCD-related Korean patents that are owned by Sharp.

The three patents named in the lawsuit are Korean Patent Numbers 371,939, 740,570 and 776,988, which according to Sharp relate to LCD technologies that achieve high brightness and high-speed response, as well as a wide viewing angle by regulating and stabilizing the alignment of the LCD molecules. These patents were filed in 1998 and 1999.

On August 6, 2007, Sharp filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung and its U.S. subsidiaries Samsung Electronics America Inc. (SEA) and Samsung Telecommunications America (STA) in the U.S. In the U.S. lawsuit, Sharp accuses Samsung of infringing on five LCD technology patents often used in televisions, computer monitors and cell phones. The suit is still pending.

Sharp filed this latest lawsuit only after negotiations between the companies for a licensing agreement fell through, although the company still hopes for a licensing deal, according to a Sharp spokesperson cited in a report by the Associated Press.

Samsung did not have any official comment posted on its web sites, but the AP report quoted Samsung spokesperson James Chung as saying: "Samsung Electronics will aggressively deal with this lawsuit."

In November, LG.Philips LCD and CPT agreed to a settlement that dismissed two pending patent lawsuits between the companies and includes an agreement allowing the companies to use each other's patented technology. As part of the settlement, CPT will also pay an undisclosed amount in compensation to LG.Philips LCD.

In 2002 and 2005, LG.Philips LCD filed two separate lawsuits in the U.S. District Courts of the Central District of California and of the District of Delaware, respectively, alleging that CPT infringed LG.Philips LCD's patents on TFT-LCD technology. In July 2006, the jury in the Delaware case awarded LG.Philips LCD $52.4 million. Later, in November of the same year, the jury in the California lawsuit awarded LG.Philips LCD $53.5 million.

Separately, in December 2006, LG.Philips LCD announced that it would file additional patent lawsuits against two of its other competitors, AU Optronics and Chi Mei Optoelectronics. These suits are currently pending trial in the U.S. District Court in Delaware, according to the press release.

— Staff Reports