No Tech for Christmas? Lawsuit claims iPod, MacBook Air violate flash patents

Jon Brodkin
20 November, 2008
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Flash memory developer Spansion has filed patent infringement suits against Samsung seeking to ban the U.S. sale of more than 100 million iPods, cell phones, digital cameras and other consumer devices containing flash technology.

Spansion claims Samsung’s flash memory components violate nine patents granted to Spansion between 1998 and 2002, relating to the structure, isolation and operation of memory cells.

In a lawsuit filed Monday, Spansion asks the International Trade Commission to ban the importation of numerous products into the U.S. market, including Apple’s iPod Nano and MacBook Air laptop; the BlackBerry Bold 9000; Sony Ericsson mobile phones and smartphones; Lenovo’s X300 and X301 ThinkPads; and various other USB flash drives and other flash-based products.

“Samsung itself has cited [Spansion's flash-related] patents many times in its own patent filings, underscoring industry acceptance of the fundamental nature of Spansion’s IP,” Spansion general counsel Robert Melendres said in a statement.

“Spansion will vigorously protect its intellectual property and is entitled to be compensated by Samsung for its use of our IP.”

Spansion claims that Samsung has earned more than $US30 billion in revenue since 2003 with flash components that violate Spansion’s intellectual property. If Spansion is successful, the number of devices affected by the lawsuit would include “well over 100 million mp3 players, cell phones, digital cameras and other consumer electronic devices,” Spansion says.

Spansion also filed a suit in U.S. District Court in Delaware demanding monetary compensation from Samsung.

Samsung vowed to fight back against the allegations. A Samsung statement says the company “forbids infringement and unauthorized use” of other companies’ intellectual property and wants to make sure “the accurate and reliable delivery of our products is not compromised in any way,” according to the Associated Press.

Spansion was spun off from AMD and Fujitsu in 1993 to embed flash memory in cell phones, automobiles and consumer electronics. Spansion announced plans to target the enterprise market in September by providing flash memory that can be used as the main system memory in servers.

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