By Kang Seung-woo
A U.S. federal body has decided to investigate allegations that SK hynix, a Korean chipmaker, infringed on American server memory maker Netlist’s patents.
Some say the decision marks the latest case of rising U.S. protectionism against Korea, but others counter that the measure is an automatic administrative response of the United States toward complaints of a patent troll.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) recently voted to investigate some of the Korean company’s memory module component, industry sources said Sunday. The measure by the ITC, a quasi-independent federal body that rules on trade violations, followed a complaint filed by the California-based outfit in late October.
“The complaint alleges violations of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain memory modules and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by the complainant,” the ITC said in a statement.
declares the infringement of a U.S. patent, copyright, registered trademark or mark to be an unlawful practice in import trade as well as other unfair methods of competition and unfair acts in the importation and subsequent sale of products in the United States. If a violation is found, the ITC may issue orders barring the importation of certain products into the U.S.
Netlist asked the ITC to investigate whether two of SK’s products — RDIMM and LRDIMM — infringe on two of Netlist’s patents.
“The complainant requests the USITC issue a limited exclusion order, and a cease and desist order,” it said.
According to the ITC, the headquarters of SK hynix in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, and SK hynix America and SK hynix memory solutions, both of which are based in San Jose, Calif. , are subject to the investigation.
It is not a new legal proceeding by the U.S. firm against the world’s second-largest chipmaker.
Netlist brought its first ITC complaint against SK hynix in September 2016, but the trade body dismissed the claim at an initial determination last month.
When contacted, SK hynix officials refused to comment. But an industry source close to the issue said the case is not a big deal.
“Netlist is a patent troll. It continues to bring SK hynix to the ITC to gain the upper hand in its battle with SK hynix. We need to keep tabs on the conflict but chances are Netlist would lose this time again,” said the source, asking not to be named.
He said the Netlist case has nothing to do with the protectionism of the Trump administration.“Netlist seems to get media attention through its maneuver.”
Netlist officials were not available for comments…