More details have emerged about Honeywell's monster patent infringement lawsuit launched against seemingly half the IT industry earlier this week.

Honeywell announced on Wednesday that it had filed suit against Apple, Dell, Kodak, Fujitsu, Sony and numerous other companies alleging infringement of a 1994 patent that describes technology used to improve the quality of images shown on a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel.

Honeywell has accused them of violating US patent 5,280,371. Filed in July 1992, and granted in January 1994, the patent describes a "directional diffuser for a liquid crystal display".

Many of the companies named in the suit are business units of the same major corporations. The full list is given at the bottom of the story.

In its 28 page complaint, Honeywell describes its technology as enabling "a display to produce a brighter image (making the screen easier to see) without requiring additional power while helping to reduce the appearance of an undesirable interference pattern called the 'Moire effect' on the screen." Honeywell originally developed the technology for the aerospace industry, for use with LCD-based displays in airplane cockpits.

"[The companies have been and are] engaged in the manufacture, importation, offer for sale, and/or sale of products that include a liquid crystal display (LCD) in the United States with the knowledge and intention that such LCD screen-containing products would be sold throughout the United States, including this judicial district," reads the complaint. "Such products include at least one of the following: laptop computers, cellular phones, PDAs, digital still cameras, video cameras, portable DVD players and portable televisions, and/or portable game systems."

The complaint indicates that "at least some of the LCD screen-containing products manufactured, imported, offered for sale" by the defendants infringe its patent. The company is asking the court for an injunction to prevent the defendants from continuing to infringe its patent, and for "damages adequate to compensate them for Defendants' infringement, in an amount to be proven at trial, together with interest and costs as fixed by the Court."

It's a big and brave strategy. Usually, companies trying to push patent claims get a big company to sign up and license their patent first and then pick off one or two smaller companies using the courts before taking on the bigger companies. Honeywell has clearly decided on a boom-or-bust approach. We shall see if it is successful.

Defendants in Honeywell patent suit

  • Argus a.k.a. Hartford Computer Group
  • Audiovox
  • Casio Computer Co.
  • Casio
  • Concord Cameras
  • Dell
  • Eastman Kodak
  • Fuji Photo Film
  • Fuji Photo Film USA
  • Fujitsu
  • Fujitsu America
  • Fujitsu Computer Products of America
  • Kyocera Wireless
  • Matsushita Electrical Industrial
  • Matsushita Electrical of America
  • Navman NZ
  • Navman USA
  • Nikon Corp
  • Nikon Inc
  • Nokia
  • Nokia Americas
  • Olympus
  • Olympus America
  • Pentax
  • Pentax USA
  • Sanyo Electric
  • Sanyo North America
  • Sony
  • Sony of America
  • Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB
  • Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications (USA)
  • Toshiba
  • Toshiba America