Toshiba sues Hynix on memory patents

Toshiba sues Hynix on memory patents

Japan's Toshiba has filed patent infringement lawsuits in Japanese and US courts against South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor.

The Japanese suit was filed in the Tokyo District Court against Hynix Semiconductor Japan and alleged that Hynix violated three of Toshiba's patents covering flash memory chips, Toshiba said in a statement.

The suit sought monetary damages and a halt to sales of the Hynix products that Toshiba alleged infringe upon its patents, it said.

Toshiba also filed a broader suit against Hynix and some of its US subsidiaries in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas. That suit alleges Hynix has infringed upon four patents on flash memory and three relating to DRAM (dynamic random access memory). Like the Japanese suit, it asks for an injunction against sale of the products and monetary damages.

Both lawsuits relate to a patent cross-licensing agreement signed between Toshiba and Hynix in August 1996. The agreement expired on December 31, 2002, and despite negotiations the two companies had been unable to agree on a revision of the arrangement, Toshiba said.

Hynix could not be immediately reached for comment.

Flash memory has the ability to maintain its contents even after power to the chip has been turned off. This has made it one of the most commonly used types of memory chip in devices such as consumer electronics products, cellular telephones and digital music players. DRAM is the most commonly used type of memory in personal computers.

Toshiba was the fourth largest manufacturer of flash memory in 2003, according to data from market research company IDC. Toshiba had a 13.3 per cent share of the global $US10.7 billion market on a revenue basis, behind Samsung, Fujitsu and Intel, according to IDC's estimates.

Hynix was not ranked in the top 10.

In the DRAM market, Hynix was the second largest producer of chips in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC figures. The company had a 16.1 per cent share of the $US7 billion global market behind the market leader, Samsung.

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