Joff Wild

Intellectual Ventures has begun litigation proceedings for patent infringement against 12 parties in actions that were launched yesterday in the Washington State Western District Court. The companies targeted are Hynix Semiconductor Inc and Elpida Memory Inc, plus 10 of their customers – including HP, Wal-Mart and Dell. This new round of suits follows on from IV’s first direct foray to the courts in December 2010, when it issued proceedings against nine companies operating in “the software security; dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and Flash memory; and field-programmable gate array (FPGA) industries”. Unlike December, however, IV does not seem to have released a press release announcing the move – at least not yet anyway.

As everyone knows, IV spent many years making a point of saying it had never resorted to the courts when seeking to bring in licensees. During that time, it generated $2 billion or so. However, there was always going to be a stage when the firm would come up against those with whom it could not do deals. At that point, the choice would be either to walk away or to bring in the law. There is no way that IV would ever do the former, so the latter it has to be. I expect we’ll see a lot more of these cases over the coming years. Perhaps too many to put together press releases about.

UPDATE - There is now more informaiton on this suit to be found on the IV website's Insights blog. This reveals that yesterday (12th July) the firm filed a complaint against both Hynix and Elpida at the ITC. "Per ITC requirements, the complaint also includes several companies whose products contain infringing Elpida and Hynix memory devices. As is common in these types of proceedings, we’ve also filed a similar complaint in District Court yesterday afternoon," the blog explains. It also notes that litigation against both companies had already been instituted in Delaware last December.

The blog carries this quote from IV head of litigation Melissa Finocchio:

Over the course of IV’s history, we’ve entered into many long-term agreements with companies of all sizes, providing them with access to use our IP in their products. Our goal is to reach licensing agreements. But, when companies like Elpida and Hynix clearly infringe on our patents yet refuse to take a license, we have legal options we can use to protect our interests and those of our investors. We can file a patent infringement suit seeking money damages, which we did in December, and we can file a complaint with the ITC requesting an order barring importation of the infringing products into the U.S. In the case of Elpida and Hynix, we see both courses of action as necessary to protect the value of our invention rights.

Like any other patent owner, of course, Intellectual Ventures is fully entitled to do watever it thinks is necessary to protect its position in the face of what it believes is infringement. The firm clearly wants as many people as posible to know that this is exactly what it will do as and when necessary.