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TSMC asks US to ban SMIC chip imports

Widens patent clash claim

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TSMC has accused rival chip foundry SMIC of infringing even more of its patents and has asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban the importation of SMIC product into the States.

TSMC's moves were revealed this week in a Taiwan Stock Exchange filing.

TSMC first sued SMIC in December 2003. The lawsuit, filed in the US District of Northern California, alleged SMIC had not only infringed TSMC-held patents but had engaged in a programme of industrial espionage, primarily by enticing existing and former TSMC employees - some of them now SMIC workers - to spill the beans on its processes.

In March this year, TSMC expanded its action with further claims of trade secret misappropriation, and has now beefed up the patent infringement side of the story with a further three instances of alleged violation.

For its part, SMIC denies its rival's claims and instead argues that the world's biggest chip foundry is trying to muscle it out of the market.

Calling in the ITC has become a common tactic in patent infringement cases of late, as plaintiffs seek a second line of enquiry into their allegations. Recently, HP has asked the ITC to probe the patent infringment claims it has made against Gateway (and vice versa), and Seagate has asked the organisation to look into similar allegations made against rival hard drive maker Cornice. Ampex has used the same technique in its digicam patent clash with Sony. ®

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