Chinese memory chip company YMTC sues Micron for patent infringement

This legal action initiates a new front in the semiconductor conflict, occurring amid increasing tensions between the United States and China, impacting both YMTC and Micron directly.

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YMTC, China’s biggest memory chip manufacturer, has initiated legal proceedings against Micron Technology and its subsidiary for violating eight patents. This legal move is a notable step for Chinese memory chip firms, representing a counteroffensive against US counterparts and underscoring China’s increasing dominance in the global memory chip sector. The lawsuit was filed at the US District Court for Northern California. According to the case, the US chipmaker allegedly used YMTC’s patented technology to fight off competition from YMTC and protect its market share. Micron is also accused of not paying what it should to use YMTC’s inventions.

YMTC’s legal action aims to counter Micron’s purported efforts to exclude YMTC from the 3D NAND Flash market, highlighting China’s dedication to safeguarding its technological advancements. This development is deemed a significant milestone, emphasising China’s heightened innovation capabilities in memory chips and its adeptness at confronting and safeguarding its interests amidst international legal confrontations.

Why does this matter?

This lawsuit opens a new front in the ongoing US-China tech battle. The US has been restricting export controls, further limiting China-bound advanced chips and chip manufacturing equipment and preventing ‘US Persons’ from servicing such equipment in the country. The ban hampered YMTC’s international growth, provoked retaliatory measures from Beijing, and prompted Chinese companies to strive to develop unavailable technologies with the support of state-backed funds.
In a breakthrough and defiant move, leading Chinese tech firm Huawei released a new Mate 60 series powered by a 7-nanometer processor. The advanced chip is manufactured by Shanghai-based Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. The lawsuit against Micron represents a significant development in the current tech rivalry between the US and China. The outcome of this legal battle could have significant implications for the global semiconductor industry, which is already facing geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, and intensifying competition between US, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean players. It could well be one of several hot topics for Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping when they meet face-to-face on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the San Francisco Bay area.