Intellectual Ventures Steps Up Legal Battle with Memory Manufacturers, Brings H-P, Best Buy & Others Along for the Fight

7/12/11Follow @curtwoodward

[Updated at 2:30 pm with details of ITC complaint] Now it’s really getting serious. Intellectual Ventures, the Bellevue, WA-based intellectual property and invention firm, is stepping up its fight against a pair of Asian memory manufacturers with a complaint to the International Trade Commission seeking to block the companies’ products from being imported to the U.S. A related federal lawsuit was filed in Seattle yesterday.

Intellectual Ventures also targets a bunch of companies that make, market, and sell products with the Asian companies’ memory devices—including such household names as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Those companies aren’t IV’s main adversaries; the firm is mainly going after Korea-based Hynix Semiconductor and Japan-based Elpida Memory. On its website this afternoon, Intellectual Ventures said that “ITC requirements” led it to include “several companies whose products contain infringing Elpida and Hynix memory devices.”

The lawsuit represents the second time overall that IV has gone to court to enforce its considerable patent holdings, but the ITC is a new level of seriousness. Hynix and Elpida (along with their American branches) also were targets in that first round of civil suits, filed in Delaware at the end of last year. In its blog post, IV says the ITC complaint is the next step in its legal moves against Hynix and Elpida. Intellectual Ventures lawyer Melissa Finocchio is quoted saying that the two manufacturers were “clearly” infringing on IV’s patents, but refused to make a licensing deal.

“We can file a patent infringement suit seeking money damages, which we did in December, and we can file a complaint with the ITC requesting an order barring importation of the infringing products into the U.S.,” Finnoccio said. “In the case of Elpida and Hynix, we see both courses of action as necessary to protect the value of our invention rights.”

Hynix and Elpida both make DRAM, a kind of memory used in computers and servers. Hynix also makes NAND Flash memory, which is used in things like iPods. Just as it did in its previous suit against the two companies, IV lays out a history of trying unsuccessfully to cut licensing agreements with the two firms over a set of patents.

Intellectual Ventures, co-founded by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, takes a two-pronged approach to building what it calls an “invention capital” company. The serious money is made by buying up and licensing patents—an approach that IV’s leaders have said is their attempt to establish a large, competitive market for patents as financial commodities. Intellectual Ventures says it has … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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