Harvard University is suing GlobalFoundries, claiming the semiconductor manufacturer used patented technology developed in its university labs without permission.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts university filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston on Friday, June 24 against GlobalFoundries and Micron Technologies claiming unlicensed use of patented technology that are key components of electronic products such as computers and cell phones, Harvard said in a statement on its website explaining why it brought the suit forward.
The technologies were invented by Professor Roy G. Gordon and members of his laboratory in the late 1990s and early 2000s for putting thin metal films on surfaces, such as insulation on a semiconductor memory chip, Harvard said. The university owns the patents for those technologies.
GlobalFoundaries operates seven regional offices in the U.S., including the Malta plant. A spokesman for the company said it does not comment on pending litigation, according to the Albany Business Review.
Micron Technology, based in Boise, Idaho, makes flash memory cards and other semiconductor devices.
It’s unclear how much Harvard is seeking in damages, but the suit could be worth millions of dollars, according to the Albany Times Union. It’s also unclear why Harvard chose to sue now — a year after GlobalFoundries acquired IBM’s chip manufacturing business, including facilities in Vermont and New York.
Universities are becoming more aggressive in going after from companies violating their patents, according to the Albany Business Review. Earlier this year, Apple settled a patent dispute with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, for $25 million.
Isaac T. Kohlberg, Harvard’s senior associate provost, told the Harvard Gazette it’s important for Harvard to protect its intellectual property rights, especially as corporations increasingly look to academic institutions for advances in science, engineering and technology.
“This is about honoring the intellectual property rights of our inventors,” Kohlberg told the Gazette. “It’s their ideas, their teamwork, their long days and nights in the lab, and their persistence through setbacks that advances science for everyone’s benefit, and they deserve recognition for that.”
The lawsuit specifically says GlobalFoundries is using Gordon’s deposition technique in making IBM’s Power7+ and Power8 chips used in various servers, according to the Times Union. As part of its deal to acquire IBM’s chip manufacturing division, GlobalFoundries was given a 10-year production contract that gives it access to IBM’s own chip patents and manufacturing techniques.