troll.jpgSan Diego – As the patent war surrounding the technology for smartphones continues, it appears to be spreading to the semiconductor industry as well.  U.S.-based Intellectual Ventures (IV), considered by some to be the world’s most notorious patent troll, has filed a patent infringement suit against Hynix Semiconductor and Elpida Memory.

Intellectual Ventures is a private company that is known as being one of the top-five owners of U.S. patents.  It’s focus has been on developing an extensive patent portfolio, and then licensing these patents to companies that infringe on them.  Many times, IV takes the more controversial angle and litigates against those companies that refuse a license agreement.  Critics refer to this business model as “patent trolling”, however IV defends its methodology with claims that it is building a liquid market for invention and innovation and aiding the small inventors who might otherwise be at the mercy of large corporations.

The complaint, filed in Seattle federal court, alleges that Hynix and Elpida infringed on patented technology in manufacturing DRAM and memory chips.  Hynix denied the claims and vowed to counter-sue IV, who is seeking royalties for the DRAM and memory chip products since 2009 because Hynix and Elpida refused the license agreements.

Intellectual Ventures is suing other companies, including Dell, HP, and Acer, which buy their PC chips from Hynix and Elpida, and retail vendors such as Best Buy and Walmart.  In December 2010, IV sued nine companies including Hynix and Elpida in a Delaware federal court for not paying royalties for patented technologies that they did not take a license on.  In November, IV settled with Samsung Electronics for an undisclosed amount in royalties.

Intellectual Ventures was established in 2000 by Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technology officer at Microsoft.  To date, the Bellevue, Washington-based company has acquired 35,000 patents in the IT and biotechnology fields that have reportedly generated over $2 billion in royalty payments.