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Laser light inventor wins science prize

By TIMES STAFF WRITER
Published June 16, 2006


An engineer whose high-profile patent dispute challenged the Japanese tradition of selfless devotion to employers has been awarded the $1.2-million Millennium Technology Prize for his inventions in light and laser technology.

Shuji Nakamura, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, created "new and elementary lights sources," the Millennium Prize Foundation chairman Jaakko Ihamuotila said while announcing the award Thursday in Espoo, Finland.

Nakamura, 52, developed the blue light-emitting diode, or LED, widely used in traffic signals, illumination and for storing information onto optical disks.

Last year, Nakamura and his former employer Nichia Corp. reached an $8-million settlement in a dispute over a lighting-technology patent. The case symbolized the struggle of the individual worker against companies over intellectual property in Japan, a nation where corporate devotion has been the rule.

Tapio Alvesalo, secretary general of the foundation, compared Nakamura's invention to U.S. inventor Thomas Edison's "discovery of incandescent light, which gave us the light bulb that we all know today."

But Nakamura's invention may help replace the traditional light bulb, as his method efficiently produces light from electricity without creating heat, he said.

Judge denies insurer's plea to stop liquidation

A Leon County Circuit Court judge declined to grant an emergency motion Thursday by Tampa's Poe & Associates seeking to throw out the liquidation plan that will transition about 320,000 policyholders from Poe to Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Poe, which was ordered into liquidation May 30, wants to retain as much as $16-million in commissions and fees on about 80,000 policies it had written. However, the insurer also left behind about $300-million in unpaid claims.

Judge Janet Ferris' ruling effectively defers the matter to Hillsborough County Circuit Court, where Poe has a lawsuit pending against Citizens over the same issue.

Royal Caribbean sued over diverted cruise

New Jersey's attorney general sued Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. on Thursday for diverting a Bermuda-bound cruise to Canada last summer and refusing to issue refunds.

The Miami-based cruise line said a looming storm prompted the change, and contends it was adhering to policies made known to travelers.

The state's lawsuit accuses the cruise line of violating the state Consumer Fraud Act.

Michael J. Sheehan, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean, said the ship was diverted because a tropical storm was in the ship's path.

[Last modified June 16, 2006, 06:16:02]


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