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Monopoly Suit Revived Over Panasonic SD Cards

(CN) - The 9th Circuit on Friday revived Samsung's claim that Panasonic illegally discouraged competition in the market for SD cards, a memory format short for secure digital.

Panasonic led the development of the SD card flash-memory format in 1999 and created the SD Group with its allies that year to promote the product.

Since 2003, that group has required outside manufacturers to pay a 6 percent royalty for the right to make and market the product, which has become ubiquitous in cellphones and most other mobile electronics.

In a 2010 antitrust lawsuit, Samsung alleged that Panasonic's 2006 amended licensing agreement for the right to manufacture second-generation SD cards was anticompetitive.

Panasonic and its cohorts countered that they were a patent pool rather than a monopoly.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Wright never reached the merits of the case, however, because the San Francisco judge found that Samsung had missed the four-year statute of limitations for antitrust complaints.

Giving new life to the complaint Friday, a three-judge appeals panel said Samsung met the statute of limitations by alleging a "continuing violation" by the defendants.

While Panasonic argued that the 2006 licensing agreement and fee structure had merely restated the terms of a previous contract, the panel saw them as "overt acts that restarted the statute of limitations."

The appeals panel remanded the case for a hearing on the plaintiff's antitrust and state-law claims.

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