SAN JOSE, Calif. - Two probe-card rivals face a legal battle.
Last week, FormFactor Inc., a supplier of wafer probe cards, filed a patent infringement suit against rival Micro-Probe Inc. The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in California, charges Micro-Probe ''is willfully infringing six US patents that cover aspects of FormFactor's proprietary technology and wafer probe cards.'' The complaint also includes allegations directed to breach of confidence and unfair competition.
The complaint seeks both injunctive relief and money damages and alleges Micro-Probe's infringement of FormFactor's US Patent No. 6,441,315 for "Contact Structures With Blades Having A Wiping Motion," US Patent No. 6,825,422 for "Interconnection Element With Contact Blade," US Patent No. 6,965,244 for "High Performance Probe System," US Patent No. 7,227,371 for "High Performance Probe System," US Patent No. 6,246,247 for "Probe Card Assembly and Kit, and Methods of Using Same," and US Patent No. 6,624,648 for "Probe Card Assembly."
The complaint also seeks injunctive relief and damages against Micro-Probe for unfair competition and further includes claims directed against a former employee for breach of confidence relative to FormFactor's confidential and propriety information and against the former employee and Micro-Probe for conspiring to breach that confidence.
MicroProbe challenged the accusations outlined in the suit. In a statement, MicroProbe's Chief Executive Officer, Mike Slessor, said: "We believe the claims are without merit and we intend to mount a vigorous defense. With a robust intellectual property portfolio developed over its 35-year history, MicroProbe takes IP issues seriously. We will defend our right to compete fairly in the marketplace so that we can continue to deliver innovative products to our customers."
This will be an interesting lawsuit. Rumor has it that Microprobe was able to take over signficant business from Formfactor. Formfactor has the history and plenty of IP. If you look at the patents indicated above, there are some fairly specific claims. I'd put my beans in the FormFactor basket on this one but even if they "win," the court still has to award signficant damages.
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