The University of New Mexico's patent arm, STC, filed a lawsuit against Intel on Monday alleging the infringement of a patent related to advanced chip manufacturing.
The patent in question, No. 6,042,998, pertains to double patterning lithography technology, which is important for the manufacture of chips with tiny features the size of a few atoms strung together. Chip makers around the world have sought new ways to manufacture chips as the transistors and other components on them become smaller to fit into smaller devices.
Five companies have already signed licensing deals with STC for use of its patents, including Toshiba, Samsung Electronics, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC), according to a statement from STC.
"STC filed this complaint to ensure that the interests of the University of New Mexico, its inventors and its licensees are protected and that the STC receives the compensation to which it is entitled for Intel Corporation’s unlicensed use of the advanced technology," the statement said.
An Intel representative said the company is reviewing the case information and did not want to immediately comment.
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico.
STC said it was "reluctant" to turn to the courts to settle this issue, but did so after contacting Intel and coming to the conclusion they had "no other recourse."
STC is asking the court to declare that Intel is infringing on the patent and order the chip maker to pay damages to STC.
In a related case, TSMC announced Tuesday that the U.S. International Trade Commission had ended an investigation against it over alleged patent infringement on the same patent in the STC-Intel case, No. 6,042,998.
TSMC was able to come to a settlement agreement with STC for a few patents, including No. 6,042,998 that was "very favourable to us," said Elizabeth Sun, director of corporate communications at TSMC.
She said TSMC had worked on the case for quite some time and it was settled before going to court. She declined to discuss details of the agreement.
"The case is closed as far as we're concerned," she said.
In a statement, TSMC said STC had alleged that the No. 6,042,998 patent applied to semiconductor manufacturing processes 37-nanometers or smaller, including TSMC's 28nm technology. TSMC denied the allegations and in the statement called the STC patent "invalid and unenforceable."
A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, about the size of a few atoms combined. Chip makers constantly work to shrink transistors and other parts on a chip in order to make them smaller, speedier and operate more efficiently.