Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University and the fellows of Harvard filed enforcement actions against GlobalFoundries and Micron Technologies Inc. alleging infringement of patents for technology used to make semiconductor chips.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard’s decision to bring enforcement actions comes in the wake of Apple Inc.’s (APPL) decision to pay $24.9 million to settle an enforcement action brought by Marathon Patent Group Inc. (MARA) and its partner Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute over patents related to the Siri personal assistant feature on smartphones.
Apple’s decision to settle with Marathon and RPI came after the computer giant was hit with a $234 million award in an infringement action brought by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. To be sure, Apple is not alone in having to pay a university for patent infringement. Earlier this year, Marvell Technology Group agreed to pay Carnegie Mellon University $750 million to settle their dispute.
“One has to believe that the Carnegie Mellon win vs Marvell followed by WARF and RPI/Marathon wins vs Apple have emboldened universities to enforce their rights,” said Mark Gober, a senior director at 3LP Advisors in Silicon Valley.
Gober also noted that Harvard is suing GlobalFoundries and Micron in federal court in Boston Massachusetts, which is the university’s home turf.
The complaints were filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, before Judge William G. Young. The first alleges that GlobalFoundries infringes U.S. Patent Nos. 6,969,539, 7,507,848 and 8,334,016. The second alleges that Micron infringes U.S. Patent Nos. 6,969,539 and 8,334,016.
According to the complaints, the patents reflect the work of Professor Roy G. Gordon, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Chemistry and chairman of Harvard’s Department of Chemistry.
“Professor Gordon’s research has spanned a wide range of subjects including applied mathematics, quantum mechanics, spectroscopy, intermolecular forces, solid state, and materials science. His theoretical work has led to a better understanding of bonding in molecules and solids, and to predictions of new solid phases and phase transitions. Currently the chemical kinetics of crystal growth from vapor systems is being studied both theoretically and experimentally in his laboratory. His discoveries of new materials and vapor deposition processes are widely used commercially for making thin films in solar cells, energy-conserving window coatings, display devices, and semiconductor electronics.”
In addition to Professor Gordon, the inventors of the patents in the complaints are Drs. Jill Becker, Dennis Hausmann, and Seigi Suh.
The inventions claimed by the asserted patents include novel processes and materials for deposition of thin films that contain metal oxides, silicates, metal phosphates or silicon dioxide. Such films are essential to key components of numerous products such as computers and cell phones.
In addition, some of the claimed inventions include atomic layer deposition, which refers to a process by which thin films for microelectronics are produced.
Harvard is seeking a finding that GlobalFoundries and Micron have directly infringed the patents i the two suits, as well as an award to Harvard of royalty or lost-profit based damages adequate to compensate them for GlobalFoundries’ and Micron’s infringement and damages to be determined by a jury. Harvard also is seeking a permanent injunction against GlobalFoundries and Micron.
President Faust couldn’t be reached immediately for comment on whether additional actions were planned against other companies. William Belanger, a partner at Pepper Hamilton in Boston, also couldn’t be reached.
Representatives of GlobalFoundries and Micron couldn't be reached immediately for comment.
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