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SanDisk Asks Court to Protect its Flash

Flash memory maker SanDisk Corp. Wednesday took steps to protect itself from a potential lawsuit from German-based semiconductor maker Infineon Technologies .

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SanDisk filed a "complaint for declaratory relief" in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The company is asking the judge to rule that it does not infringe United States Patent No. 5,726,601 (the "'601 patent") and that the '601 patent is invalid. The 1998 patent officially belongs to Siemens , but is apparently enforceable by Infineon, which spun off from the company.

SanDisk said it filed the complaint after getting an official letter from Infineon about the patent as well as Infineon's publicly announced intention to become a Flash memory supplier. Infineon does not currently license any patents from SanDisk.

A spokesperson for Infineon said the company had been in negotiations with Sandisk over a patent license for a lengthy period of time but the parties could not reach an agreement on the value of an Infineon patent license. "It is our position that SanDisk has infringed and is continuing to infringe many Infineon patents," an Infineon spokesperson told internetnews.com. "We are currently reviewing our legal options regarding the Sandisk complaint. Infineon believes there is no merit to this complaint and plans to file a response in due course."

The invention relates to "an integrated circuit having contacting locations that are connectable to external terminals of the integrated circuit through bonding wires." The invention also relates to a method for producing the integrated circuit. While the patent does not explicitly refer to Flash, it does refer to NAND gate logic, which is an integral part of Flash memory.

Infineon has tried to exercise its legal power concerning memory chips before. The company was unsuccessful in its attempts to revive its patent infringement case against rival Rambus .