Micron faces possibility of paying US$1.3bn in damages to HBM patent holder

Micron faces possibility of paying US$1.3bn in damages to HBM patent holder

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By Peter Clarke

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Micron Technology Inc. (Boise, Idaho) could be facing triple damages for wilful infringement of patents owned by memory subsystem vendor Netlist Inc. (Irvine, Calif.).

Netlist designs and sells solid-state drives and modular memory subsystems to enterprise customers. It also claims to own patents that apply to high-bandwidth memory (HBM) and to DDR5, both of which used in AI server farms in datacenters.

Jurors in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas found on Thursday May 23 that certain Micron semiconductor-memory products infringe two Netlist patents related to technology for improving the performance of memory modules. The damages were set at US$445 million but the jurors also found that Micron infringed the patents wilfully, which could lead to the judge tripling the award.

The award relates to two Netlist patents: US Patent Nos. 7,619,912 and 11,093,417. The infringing products were all Micron DDR4 RDIMMs and DDR4 LRDIMMs. Micron is likely to appeal the ruling and there may be drawn out legal wrangling over the validity of patents.

The amount of damages awarded by the jury covers infringement by Micron from April 2021 to May 2024 for the ‘912 patent and from August 2021 to May 2024 for the ‘417 patent, Netlist said in a statement.

Micron after Samsung

The ruling against Micron comes after Netlist won a final judgment against Samsung in August 2023. In that case, also conducted in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Chief Judge Rodney Gilstrap ruled against Samsung confirming wilful infringement and awarded US$303 million in damages.

“Our patents in this case cover semiconductor technologies such as HBM and DDR5 that are foundational to generative AI computing,” stated Chuck Hong, CEO of Netlist, in a statement issued at the time.

However, payments are pending as Netlist has seen the five patents asserted in the case against Samsung receive written decisions from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board striking certain claims on grounds of unpatentability. An appeal by Netlist could take months and then potentially be followed by up to two years in an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

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