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Patent troll files $480 million infringement lawsuit against Micron Technology in apparent “AI proxy war”


In brief: Patent trolls are companies that do not produce any products. Instead, they buy up and hold onto patents solely to sue for profit. It happens constantly, but a Korean publication points out that what we see as trolling is actually a war between rivals waged by proxy. It’s a fascinating viewpoint.

A South Korean company called Mimir IP is suing US memory maker Micron Technology for infringing on its patents. It filed its complaint with the International Trade Commission and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The lawsuit also names several companies, including Tesla, Dell, HP, and Lenovo, as secondary defendants for their use of Micron components.

The Korea Economic Daily (KED) describes Mimir IP as a non-practicing entity (NPE) – what we call a patent troll. Mimir makes its money by purchasing patents and then turning a profit by suing companies using the patented device or technology.

In May alone, Mimir bought about 1,500 patents from SK Hynix. The company wasted no time filing a lawsuit using six involving “circuits, voltage measurement devices and non-volatile memory devices.” While KED didn’t mention specific demands, it estimated compensation could reach $480 million if the court ends up ruling in favor of Mimir IP. The judge could also force the defendants to sign licensing agreements with Mimir.

Companies frequently sell patents to trolls to fight competitors by proxy. notes KED. Recently, it has noticed an uptick in NPE activity presumably caused by the ongoing AI boom. The three biggest DRAM providers – Samsung, SK Hynix, and Micron – have all loaded the NPE cannons in the last year, so to speak.

In June 2023, Samsung Electronics passed over rights to 96 of its patents to IKT, an NPE affiliated with Samsung Display. The move is considered preparation for a proxy legal battle. This assumption is supported by a similar deal in 2022 when Intel sued Samsung and TSMC for infringement through patent management company Daedalus Prime.

Micron might have begun this more recent battle when it sold about 400 patents to NPE Lodestar Licensing Group in March. It was the first time in 11 years that Micron offloaded a cache of patents to a holding company. Officials speculate that the Mimir lawsuit might be a preemptive strike as it looks like Micron is preparing for similar legal actions.

“SK Hynix and Micron are DRAM rivals. The fight over industry hegemony is spreading beyond technology competition to patent rivalry,” an unnamed industry official told KED.

It will be interesting to see if Lodestar indeed files an infringement lawsuit in the immediate future. This viewpoint adds a whole different perspective to patent trolls and their dubious actions.



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