Patent fight could impact half of global rare earth metal supply – by Dorothy Kosich ( – August 13, 2013)

A dispute between a new Chinese rare earth company industrial alliance and Japan’s Hitachi Metals over extension of Nd-Fe-B magnets could impact U.S. and Chinese manufacturing.

RENO (MINEWEB) – China’s desire to promote the development of a domestic rare earth permanent magnet industry is running head-on into Japan’s Hitachi Metals, Ltd. which is trying to protect over 600 sintered rare earth magnet patents globally, including over 100 patents in the U.S., 300 in China and 600 in Japan.

The dispute could impact up to half of the world’s rare earths production. The neodymium- iron-boron alloy magnet is used in motors, audio speakers, headphone, cordless tools, computer hard drives and even golf ball markers.

A year ago, Hitachi Metals, Ltd. and Hitachi Metals North Carolina, Ltd. asked the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to stop the sales of such products and their downstream products that did not have a U.S. patent license. Four Chinese companies entered into settlement agreements with Hitachi in May by paying money to gain the patent license.

On June 6th, Hitachi Metals filed a motion to terminate the U.S. ITC investigation, noting, “Of the 29 respondents originally named in the investigation, 26 respondents have been dismissed from the investigation to this point, virtually all of them through settlement agreements entered into with Hitachi Metals.”

In a news release issued at the time, Hitachi said, “This ITC investigation has sent a strong message to the marketplace that Hitachi Metals is prepared to aggressively enforce its patents to bring order to the market for the benefit of its and its licensees’ sintered rare earth magnet businesses. Hitachi Metals intends to continue to closely monitor and strongly enforce its patents in the markets for sintered rare earth magnets.”

However, on July 11th, the 16 Chinese companies which attended the Chinese Rare Earth Permanent Industry Development Promotion Conference voted to set up the China Rare Earth Permanent Magnet Industry Development Promotion, including a domestic and international patent project group for Nd-Fe-B permanent magnets.

The new industrial alliance announced Monday that it will sue Hitachi Metals “for holding invalid patents and infringing patent rights of Chinese companies, China Daily reported.

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