Hynix, SanDisk announce patent pact, joint venture

Hynix and SanDisk have settled an intellectual-property rift with a cross-patent license agreement

Hynix Semiconductor and SanDisk have reached a patent cross-license agreement and will jointly manufacture and sell NAND flash memory in addition to developing four-bit-per-cell flash memory, the companies said Wednesday.

Both companies will invest in increased manufacturing capacity at Hynix, the world's number two producer of DRAM (dynamic RAM) memory chips, based in South Korea.

The four-bit-per-cell flash technology, called x4, allows for more storage on a flash memory chip for the same manufacturing cost. Hynix had been collaborating with M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers Ltd. on x4 technology. SanDisk, however, bought M-Systems for US$1.5 billion in November 2006.

Neither company detailed what happened to the collaboration on x4 after SanDisk bought M-Systems. But the new agreement resolves intellectual-property issues between them and puts aside "distractions," said O.C. Kwon, senior vice president of Hynix, in a statement.

On Tuesday, Hynix reached an agreement with Toshiba to share semiconductor patents, ending patent-infringement suits in the U.S. and Japan.

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