On the afternoon of July 28, the Patent Review Committee of the State Intellectual Property Office (hereinafter referred to as the “Review Committee”) orally heard the invalid application for an invention patent in 201110240931.5 (hereinafter referred to as “FinFET Patent”). The applicant for the invalid application is Intel (China) Limited (“Intel”), while the patentee is the Institute of Microelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (“Microelectronics Institute”).
This is Intel’s response to a patent infringement lawsuit launched by Microelectronics in 2018. Prior to this, Intel has five times in China and the United States in the case of patents and their American equivalent patents to launch invalid applications, both failed. The review board’s latest review decision has not yet been issued, but the results may not be much of a mystery.
After repeated rejection of invalid requests by patent examination and review authorities in China and the United States, Intel has little room for manoeuvre in patent litigation with Microelectronics, and there is no shortage of deliberate delays in filing invalid applications for the same patent. Although the lawsuit has yet to be concluded, Intel has made a commitment to compensate the “friends” who have been “involved”. And if it loses, Intel may face more than sky-high patent infringement compensation, but also the possibility of being banned from sale by Core, a product line that almost bears Intel’s most glorious years, or other costs of being forced to settle.
Intel VS Microelectronics Institute.
The incident began in February 2018 with a paper invention patent infringement lawsuit filed at the Beijing High Court. The plaintiffs in the suit are Microelectronics, and the defendants are Intel, Dell (China) Co., Ltd. (“Dell”) and Beijing JD Century Information Technology Co., Ltd. (“JD.” Microelectronics alleged that Intel Core’s series of processors infringed its FinFET patent, known as “semiconductor device structures and how they are made, and how semiconductor fins are made,” demanding that Intel stop infringing, pay at least 200 million yuan in damages and cover legal costs, and apply for a court injunction.
On April 24, 2018, the Beijing High Court held a hearing, and the trial date has not yet been set. During this time, Intel has done a lot of work in response to litigation. In March 2018, Intel filed an invalid application for finFET patents with the Review Commission for the first time, and in September of that year, the Review Commission organized a oral review. On January 31 the following year, the Review Commission issued a review decision to maintain the validity of the FinFET invention patent. Intel then filed a finFET patent invalid application with the Review Board for the second time. The invalid review is still ongoing, has been oral, and the review decision has not yet been issued.
At the same time, in September 2018 and March 2019, Intel filed two applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) for FinFET patents, and U.S. equivalent patents 9070719 (“719 Patents”) are invalid. USPTO rejected Intel’s application in March and September 2019, respectively. Intel did not accept this result, and in April and November 2019, respectively, filed a review request and petition with the USPTO and its POP to challenge the USPTO’s review decision. In January 2020, the USPTO rejected Intel’s request for a review in April 2019. In June, the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeals Commission (“PTAB”) rejected Intel’s request for a retrial.
So far, from China to the United States, intel has exhausted almost all of the means that may be lost to patent infringement litigation, the results are not optimistic. For different reasons, filing an invalid application for the same patent in different regions has had a role in slowing down, but the means of response that Intel can choose next has been extremely limited.
The FinFET process that can’t be bypassed.
In multiple reviews, FinFET patents have demonstrated their extraordinary patent stability. Attempts to avoid infringement litigation by applying for invalidity of patents have been almost false, and Intel has not had enough chances in infringement litigation with Microelectronics.
The FinFET patent involved is an invention patent related to the FinFET process, and the finFET field of microelectronics is very strong patent strength. A 2015 study of patent investigations in the field of FinFET conducted by Lex Innova, a foreign patent consulting firm, showed that the number of patent applications filed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences microelectronics ranked 11th in the field, and the quality of patent applications was assessed as the highest in the world.
FinFET has been the perfect choice for the world’s most mainstream fabs since the third generation of Core processors at the 22nm process node began using the FinFET process in 2011. The Core Series processors after Intel’s third generation are naturally inthetades. Core processors are also mentioned in the patent infringement lawsuit filed by Microelectronics. Core Series processors are the products that set the way to Intel’s dominance, and today, the Core i7, Core i5, Core i3 and other familiar names are almost Intel’s product business cards. The scope of core products affected by the lawsuit is not yet known. However, in terms of the scope of protection of the rights of FinFET patents, the implications may be quite broad.
Dong Lin, patent director of Shenzhen Jiade Intellectual Property Services Co., Ltd., told The Micronet: “From a method point of view, as long as the side wall is formed on the outside of the gate line, and then cut off (electrical isolation) gate line finFET design, will fall into the microelectronics FET patent protection range; “
Microelectronics filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction and compensation of not less than $200 million. The amount of damages claimed in the suit is not high compared to the $400 million awarded in another FinFET technology infringement case in 2018, the Korea Academy of Science and Technology v. Samsung, but the ban in China is more deadly for Intel. Of course, Intel and Microelectronics are not ruled out of the possibility of a settlement, but it is conceivable that the same cost of the settlement will come at a cost.
In addition to “the host” Intel, the lawsuit also involves two Intel customers, Dell and JD.com. The two companies have filed compensation for Intel, which also pledged compensation to Dell and JD.com in April and October 2018, respectively.
In fact, the patent litigation may be just the beginning.
In addition to the pending FinFET patent lawsuit, in October 2019, Microelectronics filed two lawsuits with the Beijing Intellectual Property Court alleging that products manufactured and sold on Intel Core i3 microprocessors infringed the patent rights of its application number 2010269260.0 (“MOSFET Patents”) The first defendants in the suit were Lenovo (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (“Lenovo”) and Beijing Jiayun Huitong Technology Development Co., Ltd. (“Jiayun Huitong”). The other defendants are Intel Corporation, Intel (China) Co., Ltd., Intel China Beijing Branch, Beijing Shenzhou Digital Co., Ltd. (“Shenzhou Digital”) and JD.com. Both lawsuits seek an injunction plus litigation costs and reserve the right to seek an unspecified amount of compensation.
In July 2020, Intel filed two invalidclaims petitions with the China Patent Review Board for MOSFET patents, and no progress has been made in the proceedings. In December 2019, however, Lenovo has filed a compensation award for Intel, which promised lenovo in March.
According to Dong Lin, the MOSFET patent involved mainly relates to semiconductor flat field effect transistors, or MOSFETs. Unlike the 3D design of the FinFET channel, MOSFET is a two-dimensional design with a large rinsize size and more for the previous 32nm technical nodes.
In recent years, the Chinese Academy of Sciences Microelectronics is committed to promoting patent conversion, for this reason also set up a patent conversion agency – China Science Intellectual Property Management Services Co., Ltd. This lawsuit with Intel may be both a protection of its own intellectual property rights and an effort to drive patent conversion. With the IDM model and its powerful market control, there is almost no disadvantage to Intel, this time may actually encounter a “hard tweezer”.
Public information shows that the number and quality of microelectronics patents are very considerable. Up to now, microelectronics around integrated circuits, high-reliable devices and circuits, Internet of Things and other fields have filed more than 5000 patent applications in China, more than 500 foreign patent applications, transfer of 158 patents, reached 1505 patent licenses. At the same time, microelectronics also does not lack the experience of “patent war” with large international enterprises. In May 2017, cascade of Chinese Academy of Sciences launched patent infringement lawsuits against CREE, a U.S. LED manufacturer, and its domestic subsidiaries in Shenzhen and Guangzhou. (Proofreading/Ai Wei)