The U.S. Court of Appeals here has rejected a Commerce Department request to lift its preliminary injuction preventing the imposition of a proposed settlement involving import duties on Japanese color television sets.

The settlements, announced in April after a nine-year dispute, amounted to about $66 million that the television importers agreed to pay the government in penalties resulting from alleged dumping of the television sets in the United States.

A Washington-based television industry group, The Commerce to Preserve American Color Television, challenged the settlement, claiming that the U.S. had no legal right to settle the dispute.

Compact said that the importers owed between $400 million and $700 million and that's how much they should have paid.

However, when the settlements were an nounced, Commerce officials said suggestions that they could have claimed between $400 million and $700 million were inaccurate and wouldn't be "remotely, legally defensible."

On May 6 Compact challenged the settlements and on May 9 the appeals court granted the injunction against the government carrying them out. The court this week, despite the government requests, refused to dissolve the injunction.

"It has been the position of Compact . . . that the Commerce Department's attempt to sweep the better part of nine years of dumping duties under the rug without considering the rights of the domestic industry and its workers was completely without legal authority and if allowed to stand, would totally emasculate the procedural safeguards established in the Trade Agreements Act of 1979," Compact attorney Paul D. Cullen said.

"We were confident that a court of law would not permiit this so-called settlement to be implemented without a full opportunity to examine its legality under applicable statutes," Cullen continued.

The appeals court injunction will run until the case is heard on the merits. The full case involves a suit brought by Compact and another group last year charging the government with failing to enforce anti-dumping laws.