Mikele Bicolli
May 27, 2024

Micron Owes Netlist $445 Million in Texas Memory Patent Suit

In a significant legal ruling, semiconductor Micron Technology has been ordered to pay $445 million to competitor Netlist Inc. for patent infringement. The jury's decision, delivered by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, found Micron guilty of willfully infringing on two of Netlist’s patents related to semiconductor memory technology.

The patents in question are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,619,912 (the '912 patent) and 11,093,417 (the '417 patent). The infringement centered on Micron's manufacturing and importation of high-performance computing memory products, including DRAM and DIMMs, which allegedly utilized Netlist's proprietary technology to enhance memory module capacity and performance.

The breakdown of the damages awarded includes $425 million for the infringement of the '912 patent and $20 million for the '417 patent. The jury's finding of willful infringement means that the damages could potentially be increased up to threefold by the presiding judge, although this has yet to be determined.

C.K. Hong, CEO of Netlist, emphasized the importance of the verdict, stating, "This decision underscores the value of our technology and the fundamental understanding that intentional unauthorized use of intellectual property is improper."

Micron has expressed its intention to appeal the verdict. A company spokesperson stated, "Micron will appeal the jury’s verdict and will defend the U.S. Patent Office ruling that the ’912 patent is invalid." This stance follows an April 2024 ruling by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which declared the '912 patent invalid. The PTAB is also reviewing the validity of the '417 patent.

Netlist initially filed the lawsuit against Micron in August 2022, after attempts to negotiate a licensing agreement for the patents were unsuccessful. Micron's request to stay the proceedings or separate the '912 patent from the case was denied by the court, which cited the imminent trial date and potential prejudice to Netlist.

This case is part of a broader series of legal battles for Netlist, which previously won a $303 million verdict against Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. in a similar patent infringement case. Despite the PTAB's invalidation of one of the patents involved in that case, the ruling did not directly affect the Micron verdict.

The implications of this ruling for Micron, while significant, are not expected to severely impact its market position. The company remains a key player in the high-bandwidth memory market, with its production capacity for 2024 and 2025 already largely allocated.

The case, formally known as Netlist, Inc. v. Micron Technology Texas LLC et al, will likely continue to develop as appeals and further legal reviews proceed. McKool Smith and Irell & Manella LLP represent Netlist.