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Spansion sharpens IP defence against infringers

Posted: 12 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:flash? memory? patent? IP?

Spansion is putting its foot down, sending letters to a host of memory firms and non-memory end users warning of potential patent infringement. The list of recipients of said warnings was not divulged, though Taiwan-based Macronix and Renesas are likely included, given their current volatile relationship with Spansion.

Leveraging what's believed to be its crown jewel 40nm embedded flash technology, Renesas has been working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to develop an embedded flash-based MCU platform licensable to other semiconductor suppliers. Ali Pourkeramati, senior vice president of strategic alliances and business development at Spansion, told EE Times, "If Renesas is doing eFlash MCU, they must come to us," implying potential infringement by Renesas on Spansion's embedded Charge Trap (eCT) technology.

A Renesas Electronics spokeswoman was unable to respond to EE Times' inquiry by press time, noting that an executive in charge is traveling.

As more MCU vendors look to embed larger memory inside their logic designs, both Renesas' eFlash and Spansion's eCT are destined to form a new battleground for IP battles.

Spansion made it clear that the company today is very serious about its IP protection. "We've got to make sure that whoever is using our IPs without licence needs to be stopped... We will not forget or forgive," said Pourkeramati.

Technology licensing and heavy execution on its IP protection is "neither a side business nor an opportunistic strategy" for Spansion, he asserted.

Pourkeramati, a former CTO at Spansion, has been responsible for corporate business development since May 2012. His mission also includes licensing strategy. Over the last six months, "we've been creating a big team" for the enforcement of Spansion's IP protection, he noted.

Licensing programmes

Spansion has put together licensing programmes for both flash and eCT for embedded MCUs.

In the realm of flash technology in memory products, the company's floating gate technology has been licensed to XMC, a foundry based in Wuhan, China. Meanwhile, Charge Trap (CT) technology for flash memory already has several licencees including Panasonic, Elpida (for NAND flash), and Macronix.

As for eCT in logic products, Spansion has licensed the technology at 40 nm to UMC (United Microelectronics Corp.), a foundry based in Taiwan. Pourkeramati says Spansion's eCT is open to license for other chip vendors. However, "anyone interested in the technology first has to come to us, and their products need to be fabricated by UMC."

Spansion is also an MCU, since its acquisition last summer of Fujitsu Semiconductor's MCU and analogue businesses. Spansion is planning to release eCT technology in embedded MCUs in 2015.

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