Business

In 2016, Harvard sued Micron for patent infringement. Here’s what happened.

Harvard University sued Micron Technology Inc. in 2016, accusing the Boise memory-chip maker of using a technology invented at Harvard without a license. A judge has now dismissed the lawsuit.

The dismissal Friday, March 2, came after more than a year and a half of back-and-forth legal filings that included a Micron counterclaim, and could have led to a jury trial involving complex and technical details of chip manufacturing. Instead, the two sides reached an amicable settlement, Harvard said in a news release.

The university said the terms are confidential. Micron declined to comment.

The dismissal order by U.S. District Judge Leonard P. Stark in Delaware said each party must bear its own costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees. Stark dismissed Harvard’s lawsuit with prejudice, meaning the university could not bring its claim against Micron back to court, but he dismissed Micron’s counterclaim without prejudice, meaning Micron could bring back its counterclaim if it wants.

Harvard filed a similar lawsuit against GlobalFoundries, a contractor in California that makes chips for other companies, at the same time it sued Micron, alleging the same patent infringement. Harvard and GlobalFoundries settled that lawsuit last May after GlobalFoundries signed a nonexclusive licensing agreement to use Harvard’s technology.

The story below, written by Audrey Dutton, was originally published July 13, 2016 under the headline, “Harvard sues Micron, alleging patent infringement.”

Harvard University is suing Boise’s Micron Technology in federal court, claiming the infringement occurred in its memory-chip manufacturing process.

The lawsuit was filed June 24 in Massachusetts. Harvard says chemistry professor Roy G. Gordon and others at the university invented a technology that makes it easier to use a process called “atomic layer deposition” in the semiconductor industry. Harvard alleges Micron, which makes memory chips, is using the technology without a license.

Harvard also is suing California-based semiconductor company Global Foundries.

Gordon and three members of his laboratory team began inventing the technology in the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to the lawsuit. Harvard said the technology relates to the deposition of thin films of metals and other materials onto surfaces — for example, to create an insulating layer on a semiconductor memory chip. Patents were issued in 2005 and 2012.

“Their efforts revolutionized the manufacture of semiconductor components, made better computers available around the world and contributed to the growth of the information economy,” Harvard said in a media release on its website.

“In this situation, Harvard has reached out to each of the named companies outside of the context of litigation and invited them to engage in good faith licensing discussions,” the university said on its website. “The companies have refused to engage and have, so far, continued their infringement activities.”

Harvard is seeking back royalties and wants Micron to stop using the process and materials.

Micron declined to comment.

Patent lawsuits are common in the technology industry. Micron has been sued numerous times over patent infringement allegations, according to federal court records.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued Micron and several other technology companies for alleged patent infringement in February 2015. That lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed last month, after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board found “a reasonable likelihood that the claims are invalid.”

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448

Related stories from Idaho Statesman

  Comments