FRANKFURT/TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Nikon Corp on Monday said it has initiated legal action against ASML Holding NV and Carl Zeiss AG [CZTOP.UL], saying the Dutch and Germany companies used its lithography technology without its permission.
Nikon, the world's eighth-largest chip equipment maker, said it had filed patent infringement cases in the Netherlands, Germany and Japan against ASML, which makes semiconductor lithography machines, and Carl Zeiss, ASML's optical supplier.
"ASML and Zeiss employ Nikon's patented technology in ASML's lithography systems, which are used globally to manufacture semiconductors, without Nikon's permission, thereby infringing Nikon's patents," Nikon said in a statement.
Nikon said it is seeking damages and to prevent ASML and Zeiss from selling the technology.
ASML dominates the market for semiconductor lithography machines, which map out electronic circuits on silicon wafers. The Netherlands-based firm has a 90 percent market share in such high-end machines, according to a January research report from Fitch Ratings.
"Nikon's litigation is unfounded, unnecessary and creates uncertainty for the semiconductor industry," said ASML President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink. ASML has repeatedly attempted to negotiate an extension of a cross-license agreement with Nikon, he said.
The legal action comes after mediation carried out by a retired judge in the United States failed to reach a settlement late last year, Nikon said.
Carl Zeiss was not immediately available to comment.
The dispute is the latest involving the three, with ASML and Carl Zeiss paying Nikon $87 million and $58 million respectively in 2004, according to Nikon.
(Reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Eric Auchard in FRANKFURT, Sam Nussey in TOKYO; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Christopher Cushing)