Memory and Storage

Micron and UMC settle dispute

30 November 2021

Pure play foundry United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) and semiconductor memory maker Micron Technology Inc. have announced a settlement between the companies regarding a long-running legal dispute over intellectual property (IP).

Under the settlement, the companies will globally withdraw their complaints against one another and UMC will make a one-time payment of an undisclosed amount to Micron.

The dispute was centered on Micron accusing UMC of misappropriating trade secrets and passing them to a Chinese state-backed firm. UMC had allegedly used patented technology of two of Micron’s China-based subsidiaries.

The dismissal of the legal dispute comes as the U.S. and other countries are attempting to clamp down on possible theft of technology. Under the Trump Administration, it added both communications equipment giant Huawei and chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC) to the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Entity List.

The move effectively blacklisted Huawei from being used as a provider for networking equipment, specifically 5G. While on the surface, the move was done to protect the emerging 5G network in the U.S. — the next generation wireless connectivity technology that will eventually provide speed boosts of 10 times over 4G LTE — it will also make it extremely difficult for U.S. tech firms to do business with Huawei as well.

For SMIC, the move was to hinder SMIC from developing sub-10 nm fab technologies and access to state-of-the-art semiconductor equipment.

The U.S. also fined UMC $60 million in 2020 after the foundry pled guilty to stealing Micron designs and sharing them with Fujian Jinhua. After the guilty plea, the U.S. Department of Justice dismissed other allegations against UMC, including conspiracy to commit economic espionage.

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