PARIS SigmaTel, Inc., a fabless chip maker best known for its MP3 player chips, said Tuesday (March 21) that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has ruled that China's Actions Semiconductor Co. infringed two SigmaTel patents.
ITC Administrative Law Judge Paul Luckern also recommended that an exclusion order be issued.
Actions has denied infringing SigmaTel’s patents and argued they are invalid.
Luckern’s ruling must still be reviewed by the full commission. For now, the ITC released only a summary of the determination, according to SigmaTel (Austin, Texas).
The ITC judge concluded that SigmaTel’s 6,633,187 and 6,366,522 patents were valid and infringed. The ruling also included a recommendation that the ITC issue an order barring any MP3 players based on infringing Actions chipscontaining two gigabytes or less of flash memoryfrom being imported into the U.S.
Through its early entry into the MP3 player market and its acquisition of Rio MP3 player technology, SigmaTel has amassed a number of patents related to system-on-chip design implementations for MP3 players.
SigmaTel has aggressively defended its patent portfolio. Ron Edgerton, chairman and CEO, said in a statement: "With additional SigmaTel patents issuing on a regular basis, we believe it is virtually impossible for our competitors to design around SigmaTel patents and still be successful in the marketplace.”
Referring recently to the patent litigation, Phil Pompa, senior vice president of the integrated components group at SigmaTel, said: "This is neither about SigmaTel versus China, nor about the United States versus China."
China's A-Max Technology is SigmaTel's largest customer, and 95 percent of SigmaTel's business is in Asia. According to Pompa, "All we want is to protect our IP." Patent protection is a growing concern for SigmaTel as it gears up to start SoC design activities in China. The company has 40 engineers in Hong Kong and 20 engineers in Shenzen. They are primarily engaged in application development.
A SigmaTel spokesperson said the ITC's final ruling will be posted on SigmaTel’s Web site when it is released to the public.