[Newsmaker] US ITC opens probe into SK hynix over patent infringement

By Song Su-hyun
  • Published : Dec 3, 2017 - 15:17
  • Updated : Dec 3, 2017 - 15:17
The US International Trade Commission will open an inspection into South Korean chipmaker SK hynix over an alleged breach of patents owned by the US memory module firm Netlist, according to the industry Sunday.

The commission’s action comes about a month after it announced it was embarking on an investigation into Samsung Electronics in October.

The USITC said Friday that it held a vote on whether to examine SK hynix’s memory modules and components -- including circuit boards containing DRAM integrated circuits installed into a memory slot on the main circuit board of a computer -- by investigating the company’s headquarters in Korea and SK hynix America Inc. and SK hynix memory solutions Inc. in San Jose. 
SK hynix's M14 fabrication line in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province (SK hynix)

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Netlist on Oct. 31 requesting issuance of a limited exclusion order and a cease-and-desist order, the USITC said.

The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the US and sale of certain memory modules and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by Netlist.

Section 337 of the US Tariff Act allows the US authority to impose sanctions on imports of foreign goods if the products are found violating patents owned by US companies or individuals.

The USITC has instituted a similar investigation into Samsung over the Korean tech giant’s possible patent infringements regarding wafer-level packaging semiconductor devices and products as asserted by US-based Tessera Advanced Technologies.

Netlist sued SK hynix in September of 2016 and October this year for infringing two different patents.

Regarding the September patent infringement suit, the USITC decided on Nov. 14 that SK hynix did not infringe the Netlist patents in an initial determination. However, the US firm said it will petition for the review of any incorrect findings in the initial determination.

“We have no comment on the issue,” an official at SK hynix said. 

Netlist is a US company founded by Korean-American Chun K. Hong. The company’s Korea office is headed by Kim Ji-bum who had worked for SK hynix.

The USITC said it would make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest time possible. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the commission will set a target date for its completion.

By Song Su-hyun (