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Toshiba Can’t Duck Battery Price-Fixing Suit

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge denied summary judgment to Toshiba in a case accusing the company and other Japanese and Korean companies of conspiring to fix prices of rechargeable lithium batteries.

The multidistrict lawsuit, transferred to San Francisco in 2013, accuses Samsung, Panasonic, Sanyo, Sony and other major electronics companies of violating federal antitrust law.

In a 7-page order, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected Toshiba's argument that the claims against it are time-barred.

Toshiba said that it withdrew from any alleged conspiracy by the end of 2004 through the sale of its lithium ion cell manufacturing business.

But Rogers said that there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the company actually did so, since Toshiba "potentially remained a member of and participated in a battery trade association alongside alleged conspirators."

She also said that Toshiba "held onto and selectively licensed 'valuable IP' relating to lithium ion battery technology" and "discarded certain manufacturing equipment that might have been sold to non-conspirators."

And "notably, Toshiba admittedly stored cells it had produced prior to selling the manufacturing business, aggregated those cells into battery packs and sold the lithium ion battery packs through at least 2007 - earning nearly $1 million in revenue," Rogers said.

The case will proceed in Federal Court.

Neither side's lead counsel immediately responded to an email requesting comment on Thursday afternoon.

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