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Soitec, SunEdison Strike SOI Cross-License Deal

06 December 2013

Troubled French semiconductor materials supplier Soitec SA has entered into a patent cross-license agreement with SunEdison Inc. related to silicon-on-insulator (SOI) wafers.

The agreement provides each company with access to the other's patent portfolio for SOI technologies and ends all outstanding legal disputes between the companies. It was not disclosed if money would change hands as part of the deal.

Soitec (Bernin, France) has been reporting large losses for some time despite efforts to diversify into solar power plant provision as an addition to supplying wafers for logic ICs and (see Troubled Soitec Waits for Solar). Soitec is the main developer and supplier of SOI wafers for use in the fully-depleted silicon-on-insulator (FDSOI) process developed by STMicroelectronics NV.

The agreement covers the manufacture of engineered un-patterned handle-substrates for partially depleted SOI (PD-SOI), fully depleted SOI (FD-SOI) and radio frequency SOI (RF-SOI) as well as advanced FinFETs and IC applications down to and beyond the 10-nm node. In addition the agreement will allow both companies to use their respective wholly owned patents for research and development purposes.

This will allow the companies to develop wafers for devices implemented in materials other than silicon. These include silicon-germanium compounds, germanium or III-V materials.

"This agreement represents a key milestone in the continuing development of a strong supply chain in the SOI ecosystem," said Christophe Maleville, senior vice president of the digital electronics division of Soitec, in a statement.

"This cooperation adds to SunEdison's current SOI product capability and enhances the ability of both companies to provide more compelling SOI solutions to our customers," said Horacio Mendez, vice president of semiconductor advanced solutions at SunEdison, in the same statement.

SunEdison (St. Paul, Mo.) was formerly known as MEMC Electronics Materials Inc. The company changed its name as it branched out into the supply of solar wafers for solar energy conversion as well as the provision of solar cell modules and the creation of solar energy farms. The company then filed papers with Securities and Exchange Commission to spin-off the semiconductor part of its business by way of an initial public offering of shares to allow the parent company to focus on its solar power business.

It is notable that SunEdison's solar business develops, finances, installs and operates distributed power plants, delivering managed solar energy services to commercial, government and utility customers. This is a business that Soitec is endeavoring to break into with a 44MW facility waiting to come on-stream in South Africa and partnering with Focusic to construct a 20MW solar power plant in Xinjiang province in China.

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