STMicro Sues InvenSense Over Sensors in Wireless Gadgets

STMicroelectronics filed a patent-infringement complaint against InvenSense Inc. in a case that could keep some Stanley Black & Decker Inc. screwdrivers and Roku Inc. remote controllers out of the U.S.

STMicroelectronics filed the complaint yesterday with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington against InvenSense and its two customers. The complaint is over inventions related to micro-electro mechanical systems, or “MEMS,” which include motion sensors that let consumers turn, tilt and tap their gadgets for games, search and other functions.

The trade complaint ratchets up the battle between the two companies as they compete in the market for sensors and imaging used in wireless devices. The wireless equipment market is projected to grow 19 percent a year to $20 billion by 2016, Benedetto Vigna, who heads STMicroelectronics’ MEMS unit, said in an interview last month.

“While we welcome fair competition, ST cannot tolerate continued infringement of our strong and unique patent portfolio, which is the result of more than 15 years of intensive R&D efforts and substantial investment, to bring competitive and innovative solutions to customers worldwide,” said Bob Krysiak, president of the U.S. unit of STMicroelectronics, in a statement yesterday.

The complaint accuses InvenSense of making MEMS devices that infringe four patents. The MEMS are incorporated in the Max Gyro Rechargeable Screwdriver made by New Britain, Connecticut-based Stanley Black & Decker, and motion-sensitive remote controllers for online video-service company Roku, headquartered in Saratoga, California.

Patent Examination

Geneva-based STMicroelectronics, whose first major sensors contract was to equip the remote on Nintendo Co.’s Wii gaming system in 2005, leads the MEMS field today, according to data published by Lyon, France-based researcher Yole Developpement.

STMicroelectronics had revenue of $1 billion last year from MEMS, compared with $859 million for Texas Instruments Inc., its main challenger in the field, Yole said in the report.

InvenSense said it developed the first integrated dual-axis MEMS gyroscope for consumer electronics and was in the market before STMicroelectronics. It has accused STMicroelectronics of using invalid patents in litigation.

An earlier civil lawsuit STMicroelectronics filed against InvenSense was put on hold last month while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office takes a second look at the STMicroelectronics patents at InvenSense’s request.

The ITC has refused to postpone its investigations in other cases where the patent office is reviewing patents. The agency typically completes cases in 15 to 18 months and has the power to halt imports of products that violate U.S. patents.

David Almoslino, a spokesman for Sunnyvale, California-based InvenSense, said the company had no comment.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS Devices) and Products Containing Same, Complaint No. 2942, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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