SAN JOSE, Calif. - China fab tool firm Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment Inc. (AMEC) claims that it has prevailed for the second time in a patent infringement suit filed against AMEC subsidiaries by Lam Research Corp. in the Intellectual Property Court of Taiwan.
In a decision rendered last week, the court dismissed Lam's appeal of its earlier trial court defeat. In a separate matter, AMEC said it also ''scored a victory'' in Taiwan's Intellectual Property Office (TIPO).
The office, according to AMEC, deemed Lam's TW patent 126873 (a focus ring patent) invalid because the claims lack novelty and non-obviousness. The patent was the subject of threatened litigation by Lam against AMEC in Taiwan.
Lam initiated litigation in the IP Court in January 2009. The litigation centered on Lam's charge that AMEC's Primo D-RIE dielectric etching equipment infringed Lam's TW Patent I36,706 (a confinement ring patent).
AMEC defended on non-infringement and invalidity grounds, and concurrently filed to invalidate Lam's confinement ring and focus ring patents in TIPO. The focus ring patent had also been at issue in the IP Court action but was eventually withdrawn from consideration by Lam, leaving the parties to concentrate on the confinement ring debate in the IP Court, while continuing the issue of the focus ring in TIPO.
In September 2009, the IP Court dismissed Lam's confinement ring patent lawsuit at the trial court level. Lam appealed the IP Court's decision. On Jan. 20, 2011, following lengthy deliberations, the court rejected the appeal and once again ruled in favor of AMEC. The IP Court's formal published decision is expected next month.
AMEC has thus been vindicated in actions brought or threatened by Lam in two key areas of Primo D-RIE technology and in both of the intellectual property forums of Taiwan.
"We are pleased with the latest rulings," said AMEC's chief executive officer, Gerald Yin, in a statement. "We have made it abundantly clear that creating unique intellectual property (IP) and honoring the integrity of competitors' IP are fundamental to our business strategy. We refuse to be distracted by infringement accusations that have no basis in reality. Notwithstanding Lam's actions, our differentiated etch product has gained a strong foothold in Taiwan and other regions."
A Lam spokeswoman issued the following statement:
''The Taiwan IP Court of Appeals has made a decision regarding our litigation with AMEC and dismissed our appeal of a previous ruling in our patent infringement case. Although the basis for the dismissal hasn’t been communicated, we anticipate the written opinion with details within one month. We will evaluate our options, including taking further appeals, when we have seen the Court’s opinion.
In addition, TIPO invalidated a Lam patent relating to our focus ring. Once we analyze the TIPO ruling, we will decide whether to appeal that decision.
Lam Research has a long history of protecting its IP and we will vigorously defend our patents. Lam has numerous patents on many aspects of chamber hardware and process, and we will continue to litigate where we feel infringement is occurring, as appropriate. A ruling in one jurisdiction on two patents does not close the matter for Lam Research.''
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