URBANA — The University of Illinois has sued a computer chip company for patent infringement.
The university recently filed a complaint in federal court in Urbana alleging Idaho-based Micron Technology infringed on the UI's patents related to the performance of silicon chips by selling, offering for sale and/or importing into the U.S. semiconductor products that are covered by the university's patented technology.
The university is seeking, in addition to a judgment against Micron, an accounting for damages for Micron's alleged infringement, triple damages, attorney fees, interest and cost.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said she could not discuss the specifics of the case.
"However, we believe that we have a strong case, we will pursue it to the fullest and we expect to prevail," she said.
"The University of Illinois is a valuable asset to the state, and this action is taken in the best interests of the university and people of the state. The university is the sixth-leading source of patents in the state of Illinois (and the only university in the top 10). Our patenting activities enable society to benefit from the advances our scientists make in their labs," Kaler said.
The three patents related to the case have to do with using the isotope deuterium to improve the lifetime of computer chips.
In the complaint filed in court, the UI said the technology was developed by Joseph Lyding, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and Karl Hess, a professor emeritus of engineering who has been elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.
The deuterium passivation process is one of the top royalty-generating technologies for the Urbana campus. Used in semiconductor devices, the technology is said to provide a solution to hot carrier effects, which can cause problems with device reliability, according to the UI's Office of Technology Management's most recent annual report.
The Urbana campus earned a total of $6.3 million and the Chicago campus brought in $12.7 million in royalties from all patented technologies for fiscal 2011.
The university does not have any other similar pending or recently closed patent-related cases, according to Lesley Millar, director of the UI's Office of Technology Management.
"Appropriate and reasoned enforcement" of the university's intellectual property rights is critical, she said.
The university has a large and growing patent portfolio — with over 500 U.S.-issued patents.
"We have significant ongoing investments in our intellectual property — not just monetary," she said.
Existing licensees want to know that they are paying for a right to use intellectual property that others do not have, unless that company also pays, she said.
"Corporations engage with the university wanting to know that we have a rigorous intellectual property management program because they often are also sharing their confidential information and intellectual property with us, to create new intellectual property."
Last year, the university announced Samsung had signed a license agreement with the UI to use the deuterium technology that can extend the life or improve the performance of silicon chips.
At the time of the announcement, Millar said the revenue potential from licensing that technology was in the millions.