Patent disputes about chip technologies
Although there are few official press releases available, it seems that numerous well-known chip manufacturers are arguing about patents apparently involving tungsten metallisation processes.
Last April, LSI – formerly LSI Logic – and Agere, who merged in 2007, asked the US ITC (International Trade Commission) business watchdog to investigate 18 chip manufacturers – among them Freescale, National Semiconductor, NXP, Spansion and STMicroelectronics as well as DRAM manufacturers like Elpida, Nanya and Powerchip.
If the ITC finds that the patents or other copyrights of a company were violated, it can impose import bans on the products in question or a penalty on the manufacturer. Complaints are often filed with the ITC as a supporting "threat" in patent disputes to increase the pressure on a negotiating partner. It is also common practice for companies to turn the tables and file a counter-complaint against the party who filed a complaint with the ITC. Freescale seems to have done just that: On 15th August, the ITC received a complaint requesting it to investigate LSI. Last week, Qimonda also filed a complaint against LSI, although the company wasn't named in LSI's original complaint. Qimonda has in the meantime become a technology partner of Elpida.
Qimonda's complaint is also directed against hard disk vendor Seagate, who co-operates with LSI in the area of controller chips. The dispute between LSI and Qimonda has the added complication that Infineon, who still holds 77.5 per cent of Qimonda's shares, acquired LSI's wireless chip division last year, and that LSI subsequently took over Infineon's hard disk controller division.