Chinese Academy of Sciences could win FinFET infringement case against Intel
It seems so ironic that China is dragging Intel through cumbersome litigations regarding patent infringements, when countless “made in China” electronic knock-offs keep flooding the global markets. Yet here we are, three years into a lawsuit that sees the Institute of Microelectronics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IMECAS) accusing Intel of fraudulent usage of the FinFET patent. Intel has been using FinFET transistors since 2011 when it introduced the Ivy Bridge processors with 22 nm lithography and the technology will probably continue to be used up until the moment Intel manages to switch to 2 nm, some time in late 2024. IMECAS claims that it owns the FinFET IP (patent CN 102956457) and is seeking ~$31 million in damages and litigation costs plus a ban of all Intel Core processors in China. Why only China? Because the case is filed with the Beijing High Court.
The case might drag for at least a few more years, but things do not really seem in Intel’s favor right now, as IMECAS went ahead and filed two additional patent infringement lawsuits regarding MOSFET tech. Of course, the Beijing High Court could be suspected to work hand in hand with the Chinese authorities. However, Intel already managed to prove that three of the FinFET patent claims do not apply to it, so maybe the Beijing High Court is still objective enough. The problem is the FinFET patent includes 14 claims, leaving 11 claims still valid for litigation. Moreover, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seems unwilling to help Intel out and all of the six patent validity challenges have been lost to IMECAS.
If Intel cannot continue to provide sound evidence in order to challenge the infringement claims, it will be faced with a choice to either enter the courtroom and prolong the lawsuit or just settle outside of court. $31 million plus litigation certainly seems like a manageable “fine” for Intel, but the ban of all Core processors on the Chinese might really cut deep into the company’s revenues. China may still rely on AMD processors and Intel’s server models, but that might not be enough for how big the Chinese market is, and China’s current home-grown desktop processors are not exactly on par with any Western variants.