Patent ruling puts chipset availability in doubt

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Patent ruling puts chipset availability in doubt

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) has ruled that Taiwanese chipset maker Silicon Integrated Systems (SIS) has infringed on a manufacturing-process patent owned by United Microelectronics (UMC). The ITC has moved to restrict the import of chips manufactured using the process to the USA.

However, SIS officials said the ruling would have no effect on users' ability to find products that incorporate SIS-made products, such as motherboards and graphics cards, in the USA

The ruling affects all chips made by SIS using the process in question, including PC chipsets and Xabre graphics chips, said Katherine Huang, a spokeswoman for the company. Chipsets are the main interface between the components of a PC, such as memory, peripherals and the processor.

The ITC ruling is subject to a 60-day presidential review period, during which time infringing SIS products can be imported into the USA if a bond is posted with the US Customs Service. The bond must cover 100% of the value for each chipset and graphics chip, and 39% of the value of each motherboard or add-in card containing the chips.

If the ITC decision is upheld by the presidential review, infringing SIS products will be banned from importation or sale in the USA until 2017. SIS officials will decide whether to appeal against the ruling based on the result of the presidential review, Huang said.

At the same time, the company has switched to a different manufacturing process for chips, Huang said. Existing SIS products already in the sales channel will not be affected by the ruling, as the ruling is unlikely to be implemented before these products are sold and replaced in inventory by chips made using the new process, she said.

In a related action, UMC has also filed a civil suit against SIS, seeking financial damages resulting from patent infringement. That case is pending in the US District Court in California, UMC said.

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