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SID news: Monday

17 Jun 2002

Inventors of a key liquid-crystal display (LCD) technology are to sue their former employer.

Two pioneers behind the development of the super twisted-nematic LCD, a technology now widespread in mobile phones and laptop computers, are suing their former employer, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), over patent royalties.

On Sunday, early registrants to the Society for Information Display (SID) conference in Boston, Massachusetts, US, were abuzz with overnight breaking news from the UK.

Peter Raynes and Colin Waters, named on the original patent applications granted in 1985, are suing QinetiQ, formerly the MoD research arm DERA, for a share in DERA royalties, which could total as much as GBP 50 million.

This will be the first legal action under section 40 of the 1977 patents act in the UK which states that if there is an outstanding benefit to the employer, in this case DERA QinetiQ, a fair share should be returned to the inventing employees.

Patents relating to super twisted-nematic LCDs are believed to contribute 80% of DERA's royalty income and generated about GBP 10 million in 1993 and 1994, according to a DERA annual report.

DERA is also believed to have sold certain patent rights to Far East interests for a one off payment said to be of the order GBP 100 million. Perceived wisdom from the SID conference is that the two inventors will not win their case.

Chris Williams, chief executive of the consultancy Logystyx and former chairman of the UK and Ireland SID chapter, said: "QinetiQ have to win this, otherwise the flood-gates will open."

Phillip Hill is editor of Displays Europe and a contributing editor of Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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