Tech infringement lawsuits casting clouds on China memory sector

Josephine Lien, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Monday 11 December 2017

China’s memory industry is moving at full throttle to develop its own production technology, but its development pace is likely to be dragged down by emerging trade secrets and technology patents infringement lawsuits against China memory makers, including a recent one filed by the US-based Micron Technology against Taiwan’s United Microelectronics (UMC) and its affiliated China memory maker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit (JHICC), according to industry sources.

The sources said Micron has filed a lawsuit with a federal court in the North California District accusing UMC and JHICC of copying its DRAM trade secrets, marking the first time for Micron to extend its legal battle across the Taiwan Straits in safeguarding its DRAM IPs. In the past, such legal cases would usually target Taiwan semiconductor players.

In this latest case, two former Micron employees allegedly copied the firm’s DRAM technology to USB drives and handed them to their new Taiwan employer UMC, which has planned to share it with China’s JHICC. But UMC has categorically denied any allegations regarding infringement of third-party IP.

Safeguarding DRAM IPs

Industry sources said that Micron’s filing the lawsuit against UMC and JHICC with a US court has demonstrated its strong determination to defend its DRAM IPs while also seeking to deter China from developing its own DRAM chip technologies.

Micron has yet to confirm reports that said it was seeking compensation from the two companies. But industry sources said that since UMC and JHICC have yet to roll out DRAM chips, it would be highly difficult for Micron to seek compensation for possible damages, because there is no shipment record to serve as the basis for calculating the compensation if demanded.

In another case, Taiwan-based DRAM solutions provider Nanya Technology has also filed a lawsuit against two of its former employees, charging them with stealing the firm’s technology information before joining a China DRAM maker. The Taoyuan District Prosecutors Office has indicted the two defendants.

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