Kent Displays and LCI win legal battle for key patent

Bo Gemmell

After a series of legal battles, Kent Displays and Kent State University won a patent dispute in Europe about technology invented at the Liquid Crystal Institute.

The patent is for a liquid crystal display that uses a special, bistable mix in the liquid crystal material and does not require power to hold the image.

Al Davis, director of sales and marketing for Kent Displays, said LCI invented the display technology. Kent Displays has a worldwide license for the technology.

“We pay the LCI royalties on our sales,” hesaid. “We have several joint projects with the LCI. We do a lot of work on our own as well.”

John West, vice president for research and dean of graduate studies, said the patent “provided some excellent research” for LCI. Graduates from LCI often continue their developments at Kent Displays, he said.

“If Kent Displays does well, Kent State University does well,” he said.

Joel Domino, president of Kent Displays, said the “very power-conscious” displays are ideal for displays that are not used constantly, such as credit cards.

“Once you write text to the display, it doesn’t require any power at all to maintain that image,” he said.

Domino said the displays could have environmental benefits as well.

“If you’re talking about green technology – if it doesn’t use any power- you can’t get any greener than that,” he said.

West said the display differs from other technologies due to its changing configuration of liquid crystals between two stable states.

West compared it to a column that can stand vertically or horizontally and support weight in either position. He said other liquid crystal mixes are like structures that stand on points and require an external source to keep them standing.

West said the technology has “potential for being a catalyst in the industry,” adding that displays on thumb drives and hard drives already use the technology.

Davis said a Japanese company and an Israeli company opposed the patent’s validity. The companies argued that the patent wasn’t written clearly and wasn’t unique. They requested a hearing in front of a European patent court.

The court ruled against Kent Displays, but the company went to appeal the decision in Munich in July. The panel of three judges ruled in its favor.

“We would’ve been in court a lot more if we had a patent that had not done well,” Davis said.

J. William Doane, director emeritus of LCI, founded Kent Displays in 1993 with William Manning of Manning Ventures in Rochester, New York, according to Kent Displays’ Web site.

Contact general assignment reporter Bo Gemmell at [email protected].