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IPG wins fiber laser court battle

06 Oct 2011

Jury returns a verdict of non-infringement in the patent saga, five years after IMRA America sued IPG Photonics.

A jury has returned a verdict of 'non-infringement' in the long-running fiber laser intellectual property case brought by IMRA America against IPG Photonics.

Five years after IMRA first sued IPG, which is the undisputed market leader in the fast-growing high-power fiber laser sector, the jury spent nearly two weeks listening to testimonies in a trial presided over by Senior Judge Arthur Tarnow at the US District Court of Eastern Michigan.

IPG did not challenge the validity of US Patent 5,818,630, and IMRA's president Takashi Omitsu said that despite the jury's verdict, the company would maintain the strategy of defending its patents:

"We are disappointed that the jury has not agreed with our position and has not protected our valuable patent rights," he said in a statement. "Despite this result, IMRA remains committed to protecting and enforcing its intellectual property."

IMRA has already signed a number of licensing deals based on the '630 patent with other fiber laser manufacturers, including a revised agreement with Jenoptik announced just before the IPG trial took place. The jury's verdict is expected to be welcomed by fiber laser makers in general, as the technology becomes increasingly popular in materials processing applications.

The IPG-IMRA case had centered on the precise nature of a so-called “mode converter”, the part of a fiber laser that matches the mode field diameter of a beam from a single-mode passive fiber to the fundamental mode of a multi-mode fiber, effectively launching the beam from one fiber to the other and enabling a high-power output.

IPG argued that its fibers are “pre-matched”, so they don’t need the kind of mode converter that is protected by the ‘630 patent - matching is instead achieved by simply splicing the fibers together.

Following the outcome of the trial on October 6, shares in IPG rose slightly, finishing up 6 per cent on the day.* However, the stock remains down over the past month, reflecting the prevailing bearish sentiment in markets currently.

* IPG's stock also rose 15% in early trading on October 7.

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