UMC de­nies it stole trade se­crets from Mi­cron

Gulf Times Business - - BUSINESS -

United Mi­cro­elec­tron­ics Corp de­nied it stole trade se­crets from chip­maker Mi­cron Tech­nolo­gies Inc, chal­leng­ing a re­cent US fed­eral grand jury in­dict­ment.

Tai­wan-based UMC said in an emailed state­ment Fri­day that it uses a dif­fer­ent mem­ory-chip de­sign than Mi­cron.

UMC and China’s Fu­jian Jin­hua In­te­grated Cir­cuit Co were in­dicted ear­lier this month in Cal­i­for­nia.

The US also sued to stop the com­pa­nies from ex­port­ing any prod­ucts to the US that were cre­ated us­ing the trade se­crets.

In­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft is among the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s chief com­plaints against China as it wages a trade war that’s rat­tled global mar­kets.

China, which is try­ing to be­come a ma­jor player in semi­con­duc­tors, has re­peat­edly de­nied al­le­ga­tions of trade se­crets theft.

Jin­hua also is­sued a de­nial. Here’s the state­ment UMC sent to Bloomberg News on Fri­day: “UMC is a Tai­wan-based, in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised semi­con­duc­tor com­pany.

Since 38 years ago, it has been an in­dis­pens­able player in the global sup­ply chain, with vol­ume pro­duc­tion tech­nolo­gies down to an ad­vanced 14nm.

By com­par­i­son, the tech­nol­ogy in­volved in the Mi­cron dis­pute is 32nm­fea­ture- size DRAM tech­nol­ogy, which was al­ready a few generations old when the project started.

“There is a mis­im­pres­sion that UMC did not have any DRAM knowl­edge or ex­pe­ri­ence.

This is em­phat­i­cally un­true. From 1996 to 2010, UMC ac­cu­mu­lated nearly 15 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in man­u­fac­tur­ing DRAM prod­ucts.

At one point, UMC’s in­ter­nal DRAM team had well over 150 peo­ple. Thanks to its ex­traor­di­nar­ily sta­ble work­force, UMC has, ever since, pos­sessed and pre­served a wealth of DRAM knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence as an in­sti­tu­tion.

As an ex­am­ple, in 1996, SC Chien, who is now UMC’s co-pres­i­dent, was the man­ager of the RAM Process De­vel­op­ment group that de­vel­oped DRAM prod­ucts. One of the first UMC part­ners for DRAM li­cens­ing in 1996 was Al­liance Semi­con­duc­tor Corp, a US-based DRAM chip de­sign com­pany that utilised UMC for DRAM man­u­fac­tur­ing.

In ad­di­tion to tra­di­tional DRAM, through 2009, UMC suc­cess­fully de­vel­oped its own em­bed­ded DRAM foundry process, which is far more com­pli­cated and dif­fi­cult than the process for mak­ing com­mod­ity DRAM.

“The joint de­vel­op­ment project un­der which UMC agreed to de­velop the DRAM process for Jin­hua, which was a stand-alone project en­tirely sep­a­rate from UMC’s pure-play foundry ser­vices, was noth­ing but a pure busi­ness trans­ac­tion that made all the busi­ness senses for UMC at the time.

It was duly sub­mit­ted to the Tai­wan au­thor­i­ties, which ap­proved the project in its en­tirety in April 2016.

No­tably, that was a time when the US-China trade war was un­heard of.

“Since UMC be­gan its con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions to de­velop the DRAM process tech­nol­ogy for Jin­hua and it­self, UMC has ex­pended hun­dreds of mil- lions of New Tai­wan Dol­lars. Al­though the num­ber of R&D team mem­bers work­ing on this DRAM project was at times close to 300, less than 10% of them once worked for Mi­cron.

“Con­trary to any im­pres­sions that may have been given by the civil and crim­i­nal law­suits, UMC’s DRAM tech­nol­ogy is, fun­da­men­tally, based on a cell de­sign en­tirely dif­fer­ent from Mi­cron’s de­sign.

In a nut­shell, UMC de­vel­oped a mem­ory cell with a 3x2 lay­out, which is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from Mi­cron’s 2x3 mem­ory cell. “An­other false im­pres­sion is that Mi­cron de­vel­oped its 25nm DRAM tech­nol­ogy in the United States. The re­al­ity is that Mi­cron pur­chased its 25nm DRAM tech­nol­ogy from Rex­chip, a Tai­wanese com­pany, and Elp­ida, a Ja­pa­nese com­pany, in the early 2010’s.

“UMC will not lit­i­gate this case in the press, but it wants to as­sure our cus­tomers and stake­hold­ers that UMC will vig­or­ously de­fend it­self against any false charges and mis­con­ceived al­le­ga­tions.”

Men walk past a sign­board of chip­maker United Mi­cro­elec­tron­ics Corp in Hs­inchu, Tai­wan. UMC de­nied it stole trade se­crets from chip­maker Mi­cron Tech­nolo­gies, chal­leng­ing a re­cent US grand jury in­dict­ment. The Tai­wan-based firm said in an e-mailed state­ment on Fri­day that it uses a dif­fer­ent mem­ory-chip de­sign than Mi­cron.

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