UMC denies it stole trade secrets from Micron
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.