Patent hoarder sues Micron for up to $480 million for infringement — South Korean firm Mimir IP acquired the patents from SK hynix in May

Micron's existing factory in Hiroshima, Japan
(Image credit: Micron Electronics)

Mimir IP, a South Korean patent hoarder, has filed a lawsuit against Micron accusing the U.S. memory maker of infringing its patents, reports The Korea Economic Daily. The case, filed on June 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), also targets Tesla, Dell, HP, and Lenovo for using Micron products.

Mimir IP acquired around 1,500 chip-related patents from SK hynix in May and is focusing on six patents related to circuits, voltage measurement devices, and non-volatile memory devices (i.e., 3D NAND) in this case. The exact demands of Mimir IP are unclear, but usually such entities want to ban Micron's products from the U.S. first (to 'cease violations') and then award them with licensing fees. If Mimir IP wins, the compensation for damages could be as high as $480 million. This marks the first time a Korean non-practicing entity (NPE) has sued a U.S. semiconductor firm, KED notes.

Non-practicing entities (NPEs) do not use the patents they acquire but often engage in litigation to profit from patent infringement claims. Industry officials and market observers usually regard NPEs as patent trolls, but the latter say they help to monetize patents, which spurs innovation. NPEs can also be considered as proxy weapons for actual patent holders to fight against their rivals.

In March 2023, Micron transferred over 400 chip-related patents to Lodestar Licensing Group, another NPE, marking its first such transfer since 2013. Similarly, Samsung transferred 96 U.S. chip patent rights to IKT, an affiliate of Samsung Display, in June 2023. These all appear to be moves to allow other companies to pursue litigation, without the original patent owners being directly involved.

The semiconductor industry has witnessed a series of legal disputes and patent transfers among major companies and this case underscores the rising number of patent disputes between NPEs and chipmakers. Notable examples include VLSI's lawsuits against Intel. VLSI is controlled by Fortress, a Softbank owned hedge fund. Daedalus Prime hit Qualcomm, Samsung, and TSMC for infringing patents originally received by Intel. TSMC has transferred over 50 U.S.-registered chip patents to Advanced Manufacturing Innovations, an entity that has not yet used the intellectual property or sued someone else... yet.

As with many such cases, it can take years to work through the details in various courts. While the potential damages against Micron may be as high as $480 million at present, the final result of such litigation is likely a long way off.

Anton Shilov
Contributing Writer

Anton Shilov is a contributing writer at Tom’s Hardware. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • gg83
    How can patent trolls help spur innovation?
  • mac_angel
    gg83 said:
    How can patent trolls help spur innovation?
    I'm guessing by forcing other companies to "build a better mousetrap".
  • Notton
    A key misconception is that innovation has a correlation to profits.
    Despite what we've been told for decades, that's not true.
    The very proof is that vulture venture capital and patent trolls exist in the first place.

    The only reason we innovate is because of demand.
  • brandonjclark
    Is this the thread where people argue that patent trolls aren't cool, even though they're following the law?

    Do these same people defend busting people who COPY digital information, which is also copyrighted?