Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Intel, AmberWave settle on strained silicon; what of IBM?

In a settlement of patent litigation, Intel will license AmberWave's technology for 10 years, Intel said March 6, 2007 in a statement distributed by Business Wire.

Intel in July sued in federal court in Delaware seeking a ruling that it isn't infringing an AmberWave patent for a method of coating chips to make them work faster (AmberWave had sued in ED Texas).

IPBiz had earlier noted: This "high frequency" of patent litigation is why the likes of Microsoft, HP, and Intel are pushing for patent reform, rather than patent quality per se. The Coalition for Patent Fairness was headed by Doug Comer, who is also Intel's director of legal affairs and technology policy.

The EngineerOnline noted:

Intel Corporation and AmberWave Systems Corporation have settled all patent infringement suits pending between them related to AmberWave Systems’ strained silicon patent portfolio.

ITWeek noted that strained silicon reduces overall energy consumption while increasing chip performance, and that IBM first described the technology in June 2001. ITWeek also states: Shortly after the IBM unveiling, Amberwave disclosed that it had developed and patented strained silicon technology. IPBiz query: what about patents to IBM? For example, US patent 6,649,492, awarded in November 2003.

IPBiz notes that there's a sniff of Bayh-Dole in the air (from a post at bords.fool based on EETimes article)

A US start-up armed with patents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has challenged IBM over leadership in strained silicon, a technique that improves the speed of transistors by stretching the silicon lattice...

The company plans to use the same basic technology to put GaAs and indium phosphide on top of silicon wafers, an advancement claimed by Motorola last month...

EE Times wrote on 22 Oct 2001:

The technology emerged from the labs earlier this year when IBM researchers discussed it in two papers at the VLSI Technology Symposium in Kyoto, Japan.

Since then, AmberWave has been waving its own flag, saying that its open intellectual-property (IP) and foundry model will allow designers everywhere to take advantage of the performance gains, or reduced power consumption, possible with strained silicon. The MIT spinout said it has signed an unidentified major foundry to support its technology

Eventually, chief executive officer Mark Wolf said, all of the major foundries will support the approach, which uses standard CMOS processing steps. "People will pay for it when they see that it is working," Wolf said. Venture capitalists have sunk about $50 million into AmberWave, which has received five patents and applied for more than 70 others.

Gene Fitzgerald founded AmberWave in 1998 along with an MIT graduate, Mayank Bulsara, who had studied under Fitzgerald at MIT.

While at Lucent, Fitzgerald realized that if you look at multiple interfaces [between the SiGe and silicon layers], and not at just a single interface, the defects can interfere with each other [canceling each other out]. That approach definitely proved to be logical, because within two months or so we had demonstrated devices, at the Materials Research Society meeting in San Francisco in 1991, that showed the highest mobility ever reported."

Frustrated with the lack of support from management at Lucent for the approach, Fitzgerald moved to MIT, where he continues to hold a professorship in material science. Many of the staff at AmberWave are drawn from MIT, which continues to support academic research into strained silicon.


A strain is developing between IBM and AmberWave. After IBM presented its work at the VLSI symposium, Wolf said, AmberWave contacted IBM and offered to discuss certain patents that AmberWave claims are fundamental to strained-silicon technology. "Their response was, 'We'll get back to you.' "

Shahidi said IBM has patents of its own, stemming from its long work in silicon germanium technology. "We don't need anybody, especially them," Shahidi said in a telephone interview.

Shahidi, who was named an IBM fellow this year after a decade of pioneering work in SOI technology, said his company plans to merge its SOI technology with its strained silicon research. But he cautioned that strained silicon is perhaps three to five years away from commercialization.

"Strained silicon is very exciting, with great potential, but it still has a long way to go before it reaches the commercial stage. There is a lot of work needed to control the defects in order to get decent yields and reliability. There are a lot of process issues, questions about whether you keep getting the benefits of strained silicon at extremely short channel lengths when the poly [channel length] gets below 50 nanometers," he said.

Of Bayh-Dole, US 6,232,138 (issued May 15, 2001), entitled Relaxed InxGa(1-x)as buffers, notes This invention was made with government support under Contract Number F30602-96C-0178 awarded by the Air Force. The government has certain rights in the invention. There is priority to a provisional: This application claims priority from provisional application Ser. No. 60/067,189 filed Dec. 1, 1997.

US 6,864,115, entitled Low threading dislocation density relaxed mismatched epilayers without high temperature growth, shows no government support, but is based on a continuing application: This application claims is a continuation of prior application Ser. No. 09/761,497, filed on Jan. 16, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,503,773 which claims priority to Ser. No. 60/177,085, filed on Jan. 20, 2000, now expired, the entire disclosure of which are incorporated by reference herein.

US 6,503,773 shows no government support, and claims priority to provisional application Ser. No. 60/177,085 filed Jan. 20 2000.



Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

The key patent apparently in question, US 5,158,907, was initially assigned to AT&T Bell Labs, reflecting work Fitzgerald (then living in Bridgewater, NJ) did for Bell. The management at Bell apparently ignored this work.

11:51 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home