In a lightning fast turnaround from portfolio acquisition to licensing, WiLAN announced it has licensed Qimonda’s patent portfolio to Samsung barely a week after WiLAN acquired it from Qimonda. The patent portfolio of Qimonda comprised of more than 7,000 patents and applications related to various semiconductor technologies including DRAM, FLASH memory, semiconductor processes, semiconductor manufacturing, lithography, packaging, semiconductor circuitry and memory interfaces.
Qimonda was founded in 2006 as a spin-off from German semiconductor leader Infineon Technologies to form a memory company that at the time was one of the largest manufacturers of DRAM memory chips. At its height in 2007, the company employed approximately 13,500 personnel worldwide, from whom 1,800 were employed in R&D with access to four 300 mm manufacturing sites and operating six major R&D facilities. It also included a chip packaging complex in Vila do Conde, Portugal, and its lead R&D center in Dresden, Germany, in total covering three continents. However, a fall in DRAM prices coupled with the 2008 global financial crisis found Qimonda filing for bankruptcy in early 2009.
According to the Semiconductor Memory, U.S. Patent Landscape report released by iRunway in February this year, Qimonda is the eleventh largest holder of patent assets in the memory space. Qimonda has 1,242 IP assets with 1,073 granted patents and 169 pending apps. This pie chart shows a breakdown of these IP assets across various types of Memory technologies. Some IP assets span across multiple technologies.
A 2012 KPMG report identified that about 24% of Qimonda’s portfolio covered lithography and packaging, as well as next generation technologies including OLED and organic displays, and extreme ultaviolet lithography techniques among others.
WiLAN’s acquisition of the Qimonda’s portfolio for €30 million (~ 33 million USD) makes WiLAN’s Memory portfolio (including Qimonda’s) the largest portfolio held by a patent licensing company, ahead of Round Rock Research, which holds 1,115 IP assets (1,049 grants and 66 pending applications).
So, when Samsung entered into a license deal with WiLAN, it not only gained access to Qimonda’s excellent portfolio in the Semiconductor Memory industry, especially in the DRAM space, but also Qimonda’s IP in next generation technologies such as OLEDs and organic displays as well.
While Samsung is a behemoth in the Semiconductor Memory space with 4,740 IP assets – second behind Micron – it must not be forgotten that Samsung is also a leading manufacturer of displays as well as a one of the top contract foundries. The Korean giant competes with TSMC of Taiwan for the mantle of the world’s leading semiconductor foundry. This access to Qimonda’s patented technologies can provide Samsung a shot in the arm as it competes with TSMC to bring the next generation process technology online and to attain the bulk of leading edge foundry business from players such as Apple and Qualcomm.
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