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Fiber laser showdown delayed until March

31 Jan 2011

The long-running saga between IPG Photonics and IMRA America rumbles on, with a motion hearing at a Detroit court now set for March 3.

The expected court showdown between fiber laser rivals IPG Photonics and IMRA America scheduled for January 27 has been put back until March 3 at the earliest.

According to documents filed by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, the “scheduling conference” previously arranged for January 27 did not proceed as anticipated, and resulted in a “status conference” being held instead.

As a result, IPG and IMRA have now been invited to a motion hearing at 2pm on March 3, where Judge Arthur Tarnow will consider the motions for summary judgment filed by the two parties.

IMRA, which sued IPG for infringement of its US patent 5,818,630 (typically referred to as "the '630 patent"), is seeking substantial damages. IPG, which has grown to dominate the market for high-power fiber lasers, particularly in relation to materials processing applications, denies any infringement and has called for summary dismissal of all of IMRA’s claims.

Tensions between the two companies were clearly running high at the recent Photonics West event in San Francisco, where IMRA was showing off its new and very compact Femtolite FX-100i ultrafast (< 120 fs, 75 MHz) laser and IPG showcased its quasi-continuous-wave YLR-150/1500-QCW-AC fiber source.

IMRA has already agreed a number of licensing deals with other fiber laser companies that either did not wish, or were unable, to take the matter to court, among them the major photonics manufacturer Jenoptik. But the deep pockets of both IMRA’s Japanese parent company Aisin Seiki and the highly profitable IPG means that the two firms have each been able to support a long-running legal battle.

Most other fiber laser companies are believed to favor an IPG victory in the case, as this would likely stop IMRA pursuing other manufacturers. They will now have to wait until March 3 at the earliest to find out which way the decision goes.

Updated and corrected Feb 1: Valentin Gapontsev, the IPG Photonics CEO and a major shareholder in the company, transferred 900,000 directly owned IPG shares to The Valentin Gapontsev Trust II for estate planning purposes on January 25, at a value equivalent to $26.3 million. IPG has traded publicly for just over four years, and its current stock price of approximately $34 is close to an all-time high. (Source: Yahoo!Finance/SEC)

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