There are times when an observer of our industry feels like he is looking at a strange experiment gone mad. This was my case in the last few days when I received press releases from both Kilopass and Sidense regarding the latest developments in their patent infringement legal battle.
Kilopass sued Sidense for patent infringement on May 2010. The press release lists five of its patents on the 1T antifuse technology as being specific to the suit. A number of legal maneuvers ensued, all ostensibly going in favor of Kilopass, at least according to my understanding. In February of this year the US Patent Office validated one of the three key Kilopass patents as belonging to Kilopass. It rejected the claim on two others pending Kilopass rebuttal. Both companies continued to pursue the legal proceedings.
In cases involving difficult technological issues, a judge will determine the technological definitions of terms that will be used in a trial by jury. This proceeding is called the Markman hearing, adopted in 1997. On September 2, Kilopass issued a detailed press release calling the Markman Order issued by Judge Susan Illston favorable to Kilopass and indicating that a number of definitions requested by Sidense were not accepted by the Court.
A press release from Sidense on September 6 states that the same ruling “indicates that Kilopass should not be able to win its patent infringement lawsuit against Sidense.” It specifically points to Kilopass definitions not accepted by the court (although it does not identify them).
At least the two parties are indicating a strong belief in their respective case. The issue that will go to trial has to do with the structure of a transistor in a semiconductor device, and how it is used to build a memory cell. The dictionary developed under the Markman proceeding is designed to make it simpler for a member of the jury to understand what people are talking about in court. Yet, even with this dictionary I find it difficult to believe that a person not familiar with semiconductor engineering will be able to appreciate how a shallow trench isolation region is not a semiconductor when it is built on a semiconductor device, for example.
But if you think this is complicated, you just need to wait. On August 19 Sidense filed a business tort lawsuit against Kilopass and its CEO, Charlie Cheng. And Kilopass asked for a five months delay in the patent suit, the same legal proceedings it says it has an advantage on. The latest suit may be part of Sidense defense of its own installed base since Kilopass has publicly declared that it working to switch all of Sidense customers to its own products.
I wonder why no one has yet written a “The Real Companies Of Silicon Valley” series for reality television. One entire segment could take place in the shallow trench within the doped semiconductor region.