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SanDisk shrugs off Berlin court ruling in MP3 spat

Italian firm says a judge has ruled that the seizure of SanDisk MP3 players at a trade show was legal.

Memory card and MP3 music player producer SanDisk said on Thursday a legal battle with MP3 patent holders is ongoing, shrugging off a statement from a patent pool firm claiming a judicial victory.

The Societa Italiana per lo Sviluppo dell'Elettronica (Sisvel), which collects royalties for audio coding technology used in MP3 players and set-top boxes, has accused SanDisk of not paying for the technology.

SanDisk's MP3 players were seized by German law enforcement agencies at the IFA electronics trade show in Berlin in September. Sisvel said in a statement that a judge in the German regional criminal court of Berlin had ruled last week that the seizure had been legal and that there had been sufficient grounds for suspicion of deliberate patent infringement.

A Sisvel representative said the judge had only ruled on the legality of the seizure, and not on the infringement itself.

SanDisk said it uses different technology and believes it does not have to pay royalties to Sisvel and its partners. Sisvel also collects royalties on behalf of other firms like Philips Electronics of the Netherlands and France Telecom.

"In a litigation currently pending in the Mannheim District Court, SanDisk is showing that its MP3 players operate a technology which is completely different from a certain audio data transmission and reception technique that has been patented for Philips and others many years ago," SanDisk said in a statement.

"An expert opinion from one of the founders of MP3 digital-audio compression substantiates SanDisk's position. SanDisk is not infringing any patent in the pending litigation," it added.

A SanDisk representative in Europe said a ruling was expected in March or April next year.

SanDisk, which is a distant second to Apple in the digital-music player market, is the world's leading maker of flash memory data storage cards used in digital cameras and mobile phones as well as MP3 players.