UPDATE 3-Judge backs LG in Whirlpool patent case

Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:21pm IST

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* ITC judge rules in favor of LG

* Says LG refrigerators don't infringe Whirlpool patent (Adds analyst comment)

NEW YORK Oct 12 (Reuters) - LG Electronics Inc (066570.KS) said on Monday a U.S. International Trade Commission judge has ruled it has not infringed Whirlpool Corp's (WHR.N) patent for ice storage bins placed in refrigerator doors.

The ruling prevents the ITC from granting any relief to Whirlpool.

In a statement, LG said Judge Theodore Essex ruled late Friday that none of LG's side-by-side or French door refrigerator models infringed the patent.

Unless modified by the ITC on an appeal, this will become the final decision of the ITC in about four months, LG said.

Established appliance makers like Whirlpool and Sweden's Electrolux (ELUXb.ST) are facing new competition as entrants such as LG and fellow South Korean maker Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) offer more high-end products.

Cowen & Co analyst Laura Champine said the ruling should benefit LG's business in the United States, where the company is focused on making refrigerators with through-the-door ice and water dispensers.

The ruling came nearly three months after the U.S. ITC ordered an agency judge to take another look at a patent fight between Whirlpool and LG over refrigerator components.

Whirlpool last year accused rival LG of infringing on five Whirlpool patents involving freezer compartment and ice storage bins. It asked the trade panel to halt imports of refrigerators with those components for sale in the United States.

During the course of the case, Whirlpool withdrew four of those patents prior to the trial, LG said.

On Feb. 26, an administrative law judge working for the commission issued an initial determination in favor of LG. But the entire commission ordered the case sent back to the same administrative judge and extended the agency's investigation until Sept. 7.

Whirlpool does not provide comment on pending litigation, company spokeswoman Jill Saletta said in an e-mail.

Whirlpool shares were up 1.3 percent to $71.44. (Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Dave Zimmerman)

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