TV firms unite to tackle French claims
Five of China's major television and home appliance manufacturers have teamed up to prepare for negotiations with a leading European consumer electronics maker on its demand for patent fees for technologies.
TCL International Holdings, Skyworth Digital Holdings, Haier Group, Hisense and Saibo are known to have held informal meetings with France's Thomson in order to establish whether the Chinese firms had infringed its patent rights, according to a newspaper report posted on the China Securities Journal Web site.
A TCL spokesman said Thomson had not yet produced any convincing evidence of patent infringement.
'We need to first establish whether [the infringement] had happened before we can proceed to formal negotiations on whether to pay the patent fee and how much to pay,' the spokesman said.
Last week, it emerged that Thomson was demanding fees for the use of 20 patents between last year and 2005, and had sent a letter of complaint to China's Ministry of Information Industry and some mainland TV makers detailing its demands.
The French firm wanted seven US cents for each of the less than 50cm TVs produced, US$1 for each of the 50cm to 63cm models and US$1.20 for each of the models larger than 63cm.
The mainland's seven big TV manufacturers have been making preparations to lobby for unrestricted access to the European Union market and the removal of an annual import quota.
In September, the EU imposed the quota on the Chinese manufacturers after they won a high-profile anti-dumping case against the European group, ending a dispute that had been dragging on for almost 15 years.
A mainland industry source said: 'The impact of the patent fee negotiation on Chinese TV sets' access to the market is not immediate because the talks could be a long process, taking one to three years to conclude.'
The source said the parties concerned had yet to find out whether Thomson's technologies had been adopted and whether the patent rights had expired.
The items covered by the 20 patents include the cathode ray tube (CRT), CRT periphery accessories and the demagnetising circuit.