3M sues electronics groups over patent

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Electronics companies suffered a fresh setback on Thursday after 3M, the US diversified manufacturer, filed a lawsuit against Sony, Lenovo and a handful of other laptop makers, alleging that technology used in their lithium-ion computer batteries infringed 3M’s patents.

The lawsuit, filed in a Minnesota federal court and with the US International Trade Commission in Washington, marked the latest twist in electronics makers’ struggles with lithium-ion batteries, which have emerged as the preferred battery for use in notebook computers and other portable electronic devices.

Last autumn, exploding laptops forced several notebook makers, including Dell, Apple and Lenovo, to recall millions batteries made by Sony because they presented a fire hazard in one of the biggest product recalls in history.

Lenovo, the world’s third-biggest computer maker, earlier this month recalled more than 200,000 lithium-ion batteries made by Sanyo because of overheating problems.

Other companies named in the 3M complaint included Hitachi and Matsushita Industrial Electric.

3M, which makes everything from traffic lights to industrial abrasives, said it had suffered “irreparable injury and damages” because of the alleged patent infringement.

The lawsuit seeks to block the import and sale of products containing the allegedly infringing batteries.

Sony and Matsushita declined to comment on Thursday. Hitachi said its legal team was reviewing the 3M complaint. Lenovo could not be reached for comment.

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