InvenSense Ups Legal Debate With STMicro on MEMS Patents

InvenSense Inc. sued STMicroelectronics NV, claiming the Swiss company is infringing its patented inventions for motion sensors that are becoming ubiquitous in everything from smartphones to hand tools.

The lawsuit, brought today in federal court in Marshall, Texas, broadens a dispute between the two companies over micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS. At issue is a technology that senses when consumers turn, touch and tap their gadgets, such as when a smartphone is held at a different angle.

Each company has claimed to be the pioneer for key technology in the systems, which incorporate motion sensors and are used in cameras, fitness equipment, smartphones, tools, remote controls and other devices. The motion-processor market is projected to grow to 1.4 billion units by 2014, while shipments of gyroscopes used in smartphones may reach 358 million units by then, up from 49 million units in 2010, Sunnyvale, California-based InvenSense said in the complaint.

The company asked the court to prevent “the unlawful and unauthorized exploitation and use of its innovative patented technology” by STMicroelectronics, in court papers.

InvenSense inventions are used in Nintendo Inc.’s Wii MotionPlus, smartphones and tablet computers made by Samsung Electronics Co., HTC Corp., and ZTE Corp., as well as tools by Stanley Black & Decker Inc. and remote controls for Roku Inc. The company reported $208.6 million in fiscal 2013 sales.

MEMS Leader

STMicroelectronics, based in Geneva, leads the MEMS field, according to data published by Lyon, France-based researcher Yole Developpement. The manufacturer had MEMS revenue of $1 billion last year, Yole said in a February report.

InvenSense has claimed that the Swiss company was late to the consumer market for MEMS gyroscopes and then used invalid patents in litigation.

A civil suit STMicroelectronics brought in California is on hold while the patents involved are reviewed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. STMicroelectronics filed a U.S. International Trade Commission case in March against InvenSense, seeking to block imports of Stanley screwdrivers and Roku remote controls.

The new case is InvenSense Inc. v. STMicroelectronics Inc., 13cv405, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall).

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