ASML counter-sued rival Nikon

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ASML, the world’s third largest semiconductor equipment maker, said on Friday it had counter-sued rival Nikon after the Japanese company launched a wide-ranging patent battle against the Dutch company this week.

ASML’s lawsuits involve semiconductor manufacturing equipment, flat panel display manufacturing equipment, and digital cameras, reports Reuters.

They were brought in Japan by ASML on its own and jointly with its partner Carl Zeiss, a German maker of optical systems and medical devices, ASML said in a statement.

People are silhouetted against a display of the Nikon brand logo at the CP+ camera and photo trade fair in Yokohama, Japan

ASML dominates the market for lithography machines used by the world’s biggest chipmakers to make circuits ever smaller, faster and more powerful. It generates around 80 percent of revenues in that market, ahead of No.2 player Nikon and No.3 Canon Inc, according to rating agency Fitch.

The round of lawsuits and countersuits follows efforts to renegotiate a patent deal between ASML and Nikon that expired in 2014 and threatens to revive patent battles that stretch back to the turn of the century.

Patent wars are infrequent in the technology industry, which depends on thousands of patents that companies frequently cross license to rivals while reserving their most strategic intellectual property to create proprietary products.

Intense competition sometimes spills over into costly legal battles as seen in a string of patent wars among smartphone makers in recent years.

ASML, Nikon, and Zeiss settled litigation in 2004 after the International Trade Commission found ASML had not infringed Nikon patents. ASML, which denies infringing any of Nikon’s patents, said it was left with no choice but to file counter-suits.

Nikon, the world’s eighth-largest chip equipment maker, said on Monday it had filed a patent case against ASML and Zeiss, accusing them of using its lithography technology without permission. The Tokyo-based company filed a string of suits in the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan.

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