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Electronics makers face patent infringement suits

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Korea's electronics makers, which have expanded their global market shares in recent years, face a slew of challenges from foreign rivals in the washing machine segment, one of Korea's key home-appliance exports.

U.S.-based home appliance maker Maytag filed a formal complaint over LG Electronics Inc.'s washing machines Nov. 10, claming that the Korean company's technology for air circulation and console panels violates its patents.

Whirlpool, the largest home-appliance producer of the United States, filed lawsuits in August this year, claiming that LG's washing machines infringed on two patents that it had secured in 1993. Whirlpool also filed a suit in June, arguing that LG has copied its proprietary trademark, "Whisper Quiet," for washing machines and dryers, suggesting that the U.S. home appliance giant is keen to hold the Korean player in check.

Fisher & Paykel Appliances, a home-appliance maker from New Zealand, is also in a legal showdown with LG, this time over alleged patent infringement regarding washing machine motors. Back in April this year, Fisher & Paykel filed a suit in the United States, claiming that the Korean home-appliance maker violated the patent for its proprietary SmartDrive.

Samsung Electronics Co., a major home appliance maker, and Daewoo Electronics Corp. have come under similar attacks in overseas markets. The Australian customs office conducted antidumping investigations into the sale of washing machines by the two Korean electronics makers and decided to impose antidumping tariffs of up to 45 percent and 10 percent on Samsung and Daewoo, respectively, in September.

The antidumping ruling came after Fisher & Paykel filed yet another complaint with the Australian authorities over Korean washing machines.

The series of legal and patent-related disputes, meanwhile, reflect the growing popularity of Korean washing machines in overseas markets, especially in the United States and Australia.

LG, for instance, is selling about 20,000 drum-type washing machines per month in the U.S. market in recent months, up from a negligible sales volume last year. The company is also expanding its distribution network to meet demand that is growing at a steady pace.

In the Australian drum-type washing machine market, LG is expected to grab the No. 1 slot by selling more than 60,000 units, or 33 percent of the total, this year.

Samsung holds a 15-percent share in the market, while Daewoo has carved out a 5-percent share.

From The Korean Herald

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