IFA - No show for SanDisk MP3 players

SanDisk has been forced to remove its MP3 players over charges of alleged patent infringement.

Music lovers hoping to see the latest MP3 music players from SanDisk at the IFA consumer electronics show in Germany will have to find an alternative venue outside the country. SanDisk was forced to remove the MP3 music players after an Italian patents company won a legal ruling in a local court.

Societa Italiana per lo Sviluppo dell'Elettronica SpA (Sisvel), a patent management company in Turin, had filed a lawsuit against SanDisk in district court of The Hague, Netherlands, early last year, alleging that some of SanDisk's MP3 players infringe on three European patents licensed to the Italian company.

Last week, Sisvel filed a complaint with the German public prosecutor in the Mannheim District Court, pointing to the pending litigation against SanDisk. The prosecutor issued an injunction that required the Sunnyvale, California, manufacturer to remove all its MP3 players from its stand.

"As anyone at the show can see, the players have been removed," a Sandisk spokesman said Tuesday.

SanDisk is saying little during the pending litigation, except that its MP3 players use a data transmission and reception technology that is not covered by the disputed patents.

"An expert opinion from one of the founders of MP3 digital audio compression substantiates SanDisk's position," the company said in a statement, without naming the person. "SanDisk is not infringing any patent in the pending litigation," it said.

Sisvel has licensed the patents in question with the right to bring suit over them. In March this year, SanDisk filed a suit in the English High Court against the owners of the patents, which include Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV and France Telecom SA, seeking to have them invalidated, according to a SanDisk regulatory filing.

Sisvel could not be immediately reached for comment.

SanDisk has been releasing a stream of new MP3 players, including its 8G byte Sansa e280, and had hoped to show the products to consumers and retailers at the Berlin show.

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John Blau

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