On July 8, the Mannheim Regional Court in Germany ordered Motorola Deutschland and Motorola Mobility USA to refrain from selling cell phones in Germany that infringe on LPKF’s Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) patent and ordered Motorola Deutschland to recall all cell phones that infringe the patent from commercial customers. The court also determined that both defendants must pay compensation. The judgment may be appealed.
LDS is a breakthrough technology to produce three-dimensional injection molded interconnect electronic devices. The technology took off in 2007 when major engineering thermoplastic companies developed specialty compounds doped with a metal-plastic additive activated by laser. A micro-track of metal additive forms where the laser writes the pattern for the conductive path.
The process is increasingly used to produce complex antennas for cell phones or tablet PCs. In 2013 the patent was declared invalid for the People’s Republic of China. LPKF subsequently submitted an application to reopen proceedings, which China’s Supreme People’s Court accepted for review. LPKF is also taking action against cell phone manufacturers that bring counterfeit LDS components into circulation outside China.
Dr. Ingo Bretthauer, CEO of LPKF AG, said: “The more attractive a patent is, the harder you have to work to defend it. We will continue to fight for our patent in China and systematically take action against infringers outside China. This is part and parcel of a technology company’s everyday business.”
Development of 3D molded electronic devices was a hot topic a quarter century ago, but high tooling costs prevented their widespread use until the development of LPKF’s LDS process. Molex and Tyco are major U.S. users. The drive toward electronics miniaturization and functional integration has further accelerated use of the technology.
Asia now represents more than 70 percent of LPKF’s annual sales of about $177 million. There was a major surge in sales to South Korea in 2012. Almost all of the leading smartphone manufacturers worldwide now use LDS technology made in Lower Saxony, Germany.