Sony slapped with another patent suit

Semiconductor company Agere Systems claims electronics giant's gaming systems, other tech products infringe on a number of its patents.

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Sony has been having some trouble with patent disputes of late. In March 2005, Immersion Corporation won its lawsuit claiming that Sony's DualShock PlayStation and PlayStation 2 controllers infringed on its force-feedback patents. A judge ordered Sony to pay more than $90 million in damages, and earlier this year denied an attempt from the electronics giant to have the decision overturned.

Now Sony's in the middle of another patent fight, this one brought against the company by Pennsylvania-based Agere Systems. According to court documents, Agere (which has a pair of offices in Texas) has filed suit against Sony and a number of its divisions for willful infringement of eight patents in a number of its products, including the PSP, PlayStation 2, and based on announced specifications, the PlayStation 3. Sony VAIO computers, Handycams, Walkman players, Memory Stick Duos, and Location Free TV are also named as infringing offerings on some of the patents. The patents in question run from a "wireless local area network apparatus" to "barrier layer treatments for tungsten plug."

Agere is asking that each branch of Sony be made to provide an accounting of all gains made through their alleged infringements, and that the company be awarded damages to adequately compensate it based on those figures. Agere also claims that Sony knew about the patents and willfully infringed on them, so it is asking the courts to boost the damages awarded as much as three times what it would have been otherwise.

In its defense, Sony has denied all claims of infringement. It is arguing that it actually has the rights to use seven of the eight patents through a 1989 cross-licensing deal with AT&T and Lucent (whose microelectronics group eventually became Agere Systems). Sony also contends that some of the patents (including the one it doesn't claim a right to use) were not properly obtained because Agere omitted important information when it filed for them. Finally, Sony believes the patents in question are invalid anyway, and has asked the judge to declare them as such.

Agere denied Sony's counterclaims last month and has issued a demand for a jury trial.

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