Patent fights

FOR once the Japanese are running scared from the Americans. Minolta, the camera manufacturer, recently coughed up US $127.5 million to Honeywell, the US controls technology group, which had slapped a suit for patents infringement on the auto-focus process now so widely used in Japanese cameras. The US company may drag another 15 camera makers and electronics giants to court.

The ink had not dried on this settlement before Sega Enterprises, a rapidly growing Japanese videogame manufacturer, was hit by a $33 million fine for illegally using the colour image displaying technology of two US inventors. Like Minolta, Sega will also not a peal. A protracted case could destroy the company's image in USA. Sega's president, Hayarn Nakayama, is angry because a lay jury has to decide on complex technical issues, and hinted parochial tendencies may be more at play in the awards.

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