Micron pulls DRAM design out of China

Micron pulls DRAM design out of China

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

US memory chipmaker Micron Technology has said it will cease DRAM design in Shanghai by the end of 2022, according to a South China Morning Post report.

The SCMP references industry sources saying that some of the 150 Chinese engineers will be offered relocation to the US or India and references employees and observers saying the move could be intended to avoid technology leaks to Chinese competitors.

The account referenced an unnamed Micron employee saying the decision had been made because of past losses of technical know-how as employees and were poached by Chinese rivals. It quoted Chen Rang, a Chinese semiconductor investor and entrepreneur saying that Micron had lost more than one-third of a 300-strong Shanghai team.

The report quotes a Micron statement saying its DRAM engineering team in Shanghai “will vacate from the Shanghai Design Centre,” with the process expected to be completed before December 2022. Micron is making the move to focus on flash NAND technology at the design centre, Reuters quotes the company saying.

In June 2020 UMC was found guilty of theft of trade secrets from Micron in the US by a court in Taichung City, Taiwan (see UMC found guilty of stealing Micron DRAM secrets). UMC was ordered to pay a fine of NT$100 million (about US$3.37 million). The foundry was set to appeal the ruling.

The law suit referenced events back in 2015 through 2017 when UMC was working with Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. Ltd. to develop and introduce DRAM components to the market. It was alleged that two engineers who had previously worked for Micron Taiwan, before joining UMC in November 2015 and March 2016 had passed Micron information to UMC, although UMC always claimed that the Fujian Jinhua project was based on its own proprietary DRAM technology (see UMC sues Micron in China).

The lawsuit had a sufficiently chilling effect that UMC suspended the project with Jinhua (see Report: UMC backs away from China DRAM venture) but UMC also successfully sued Micron in China of patent infringement (see Micron hit with Chinese DRAM ban).

Micron has announced that is DRAM production campus in Xi’an, capital of northwestern Shaanxi province, is back to operating at full capacity. This is after Micron implemented a lockdown in compliance with city closure measures that took effect on Dec. 23, 2021.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Micron tips DRAM delays due to Xi’an lockdown

UMC pays to reach Micron memory settlement

Micron plans for $7 billion Japanese DRAM fab

UMC found guilty of stealing Micron DRAM secrets

Micron hit with Chinese DRAM ban

UMC sues Micron in China

Report: UMC backs away from China DRAM venture

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