Japanese telecom says probe clears ex-official accused in patent dispute

Associated Press
3/11/2004

TOKYO - Japan's largest telecommunications company, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., said Thursday that an internal probe has cleared a former engineer of any wrongdoing in a patent dispute with an American university.

The University of Texas filed a lawsuit against NTT in federal court in the state of Texas in 2001, alleging that the ex-NTT employee stole proprietary information for rechargeable batteries during a 1993-1994 study abroad program. The university has sued for an unspecified amount.

But NTT said its own investigation turned up no patent infringement.

"We think we have no legal obligation whatsoever," the Tokyo-based company said in a statement. It didn't say when the probe was concluded.

NTT spokesman Tsukasa Komeda said the former employee developed a low-cost technology to make rechargeable batteries after returning from the university, but declined to elaborate.

Japan's Kyodo News agency reported that NTT later patented the technology, which uses an iron alloy called lithium iron phosphate.

University of Texas officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment.