Hynix Ends Legal Disputes with Toshiba, Forges Alliance with SanDisk

Moon Ihlwan

South Korea’s Hynix Semiconductor, long embroiled in legal disputes with Toshiba over flash memory chip patents, has struck a cross licensing deal with the Japanese company to end the legal wrangling. Toshiba and Hynix, the world’s No. 2 and No. 3 maker of NAND flash chips respectively, had been locked in court room battles in the U.S. and Japan since Toshiba first sued Hynix in November 2004 over alleged patent infringement related to the design and circuitry of the NAND chips used in digital cameras, MP3 music players and other portable digital devices. Hynix had countersued Toshiba.

On March 21, Hynix also signed an agreement with SanDisk for a similar cross licensing agreement for NAND-related patents. Hynix and the U.S. memory card maker also agreed in principle to set up a joint venture that will produce memory chips using so called x4 (four-bits-per-cell) technology.

The technology could allow chipmakers to cut costs because it is designed to have four times as much capacity as single layer cell (SLC) NAND and double the capacity of existing multi-level cells (MLC). Hynix says it began cooperation for x4 with Israel's msystems Ltd. before SanDisk acquired the Israeli company for $1.5 billion in 2006.