After being repeatedly rejected by the patent examination and reexamination authorities in China and the United States, Intel has little room to move in the patent litigation with the Microelectronics Institute, and there is no lack of deliberate delay in filing invalid applications for the same patent. Although the lawsuit has not yet come to an end, Intel has already compensated the friend who was implicated. If Intel loses the lawsuit, it may face not only the compensation for patent infringement, but also the possibility that the core series processor, which is almost the product family of Intels most glorious years, will be banned, or other costs that must be paid if it is forced to settle.
The incident started in February 2018, a patent infringement lawsuit filed in Beijing high court. The plaintiff is the Microelectronics Institute, and the defendants are Intel, Dell (China) Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Dell) and Beijing Jingdong century Information Technology Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as JD). According to the lawsuit of microelectronics, intel core series processors infringed its FinFET patent entitled semiconductor device structure and manufacturing method, and semiconductor fin manufacturing method. Intel was required to stop the infringement, compensate at least 200 million yuan, bear the litigation costs, and apply to the court for an injunction.
On April 24, 2018, the Beijing High Court held a trial, and the trial date has not yet been determined. During this period, Intel did a lot of work to deal with the lawsuit. In March 2018, Intel filed an invalid application for FinFET patent to the reexamination board for the first time. In September of that year, the reexamination board organized oral examination. On January 31 of the following year, the Reexamination Board issued an examination decision to maintain the patent right of FinFET invention valid. Subsequently, Intel submitted the application for invalidation of FinFET patent to the reexamination board for the second time. This invalid review is still in progress, has been oral review, the review decision has not been released.
Meanwhile, in September 2018 and March 2019, Intel submitted two applications to the U.S. patent and Trademark Office (hereinafter referred to as USPTO), and the American patent 9070719 (hereinafter referred to as 719 patent) applied for FinFET patent was invalid. USPTO rejected Intels application in March and September 2019, respectively. Intel did not accept this result. In April and November 2019, Intel submitted a review request and petition to USPTO and its pop, questioning USPTOs review decision. In January 2020, USPTO rejected Intels request for review in April 2019. In June, the patent trial and appeal board of the United States (hereinafter referred to as ptab) rejected Intels request for a retrial.
So far, from China to the United States, in addition to administrative litigation means, Intel has almost exhausted all possible means to eliminate patent infringement litigation in the intangible, the results are not optimistic. For different reasons, to file an invalid application for the same patent in different regions has played a delaying tactic, but Intels choice of responding means is very limited.
FinFET process without winding
The FinFET patent has proved its extraordinary patent stability in multiple reviews. It has been almost falsified to try to avoid infringement litigation by invalidation of patent application, and Intel has no enough chance to win in the infringement litigation with Microelectronics Institute.
The FinFET patent involved in the case is an invention patent related to FinFET process, and the patent strength of the Institute of microelectronics is very strong in the field of FinFET. According to the patent survey of FinFET conducted by foreign patent consulting company lexinnova in 2015, the number of patent applications of Institute of microelectronics of Chinese Academy of Sciences ranked 11th in this field, and the quality of patent application was evaluated as the first in the world.
Since 2011, the third generation core processor of 22nm process node began to use FinFET process, FinFET is almost the best choice for the global mainstream wafer plants. Intels core series processors after the third generation are no exception. In the patent infringement lawsuit of Microelectronics Institute, the core series processor is also mentioned. Core series processors are the products that have laid the way for Intel to become a leader. Today, Corei7, corei5, corei3 and other familiar names are almost the business cards of Intel products. The scope of core series products affected by the lawsuit is unknown. However, in terms of the scope of FinFET patent protection, it may involve a wide range of issues.
In the lawsuit, the Institute of microelectronics claimed injunction and compensation of no less than 200 million yuan. The amount claimed is not high compared with the $400 million damages awarded in 2018 in another FinFET technology infringement case, the Korean Academy of science and technology v. Samsung infringement, but the ban in China is more lethal for Intel. Of course, the possibility of a settlement between Intel and microelectronics is not ruled out, but it can be imagined that the settlement also needs a price.
In addition to the main Intel, the lawsuit also involved two Intel customers Dell and Jingdong. The two companies have filed compensation with Intel, and Intel also made compensation to Dell and JD in April and October 2018 respectively.
Continuation of war
In fact, the patent litigation may be just the beginning.
In addition to the pending FinFET patent litigation, in October 2019, the Microelectronics Institute also filed two lawsuits with the Beijing Intellectual Property Court, accusing the products manufactured and sold based on Intel Core I3 microprocessor infringed its patent right with application No. 201010269260.0 (hereinafter referred to as MOSFET patent). Among them, the first defendants are Lenovo (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Lenovo) and Beijing Jiayun Huitong Technology Development Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Jiayun Huitong). The other defendants are Intel Corporation, Intel (China) Co., Ltd., Intel China Beijing Branch, Beijing Digital China Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as Digital China) and Jingdong. In both cases, injunctions and costs are required, and the right to claim damages of an unknown amount is reserved.
In July 2020, Intel submitted two requests for invalidation of MOSFET patents to the China Patent Reexamination Board. At present, there is no progress in the litigation. However, in December 2019, Lenovo filed compensation with Intel, which made compensation to Lenovo in March this year.
According to Dong Lin, the MOSFET patents involved mainly involve semiconductor planar field-effect transistors, namely MOSFETs. Different from the three-dimensional design of FinFET channel, MOSFET is a two-dimensional design with larger size, which is mostly used for technical nodes before 32nm.
In recent years, the Institute of microelectronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, has been committed to promoting patent transformation, and has set up a patent transformation agency, Zhongke Intellectual Property Management Service Co., Ltd. This time, the lawsuit with Intel may not only protect its own intellectual property rights, but also promote the transformation of patents. With the IDM model and its strong market control, Intel, which is almost invincible, may really encounter a hard stubble this time.
The public information shows that the number and quality of the patents of the Institute are very considerable. Up to now, the Institute of microelectronics has submitted more than 5000 Chinese patent applications, more than 500 foreign patent applications, 158 transferred patents and 1505 patent licenses in the fields of integrated circuits, highly reliable devices and circuits, and the Internet of things. At the same time, the Microelectronics Institute does not lack the experience of patent war with international large enterprises. In May 2017, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a patent infringement lawsuit against the US LED manufacturer Cree and its domestic subsidiaries in Shenzhen and Guangzhou.