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Trade commission dismisses patent charges

The U.S. International Trade Commission dismissed charges brought by Nikon against ASML Holdings on Wednesday, a ruling that will allow the Dutch company to import its equipment to the United States. Nikon alleged that ASML's lithography machines infringe on seven of its patents and therefore could not be brought into the country. The commission determined that the allegations could not prevent importation. Nikon, however, can appeal the decision. The two companies are rivals in the market for equipment that "draws" chip circuits. Lithography systems can cost $15 million or more apiece, and several are installed in each semiconductor fabrication facility. Suits between the two companies, however, are pending in California and Japan.