SanDisk Sues Slew of Flash Memory Vendors

SanDisk on Thursday filed three separate lawsuits against 25 Flash memory product and memory player manufacturers, claiming each of the companies infringed on one or more of its Flash memory patents.

The 25 companies named in the Flash memory company’s lawsuits — including LG Electronics, Silicon Motion Technology, Memorex and Verbatim — all manufacture, sell or import USB Flash drives, CompactFlash cards, multimedia cards, MP3 players or removable Flash storage products.

SanDisk, based in Milpitas, Calif., filed two lawsuits in a Wisconsin district court and one with the International Trade Commission (ITC).

In a statement, SanDisk said all the defendants “have infringed various SanDisk system-level patents,” prompting the company to seek financial damages, a permanent injunction in the federal court actions and a permanent exclusion order from the ITC banning the importation of infringing products into the U.S.

“These actions demonstrate SanDisk’s long-term commitment to enforcing its patents, both to protect our investment in research and development by obtaining a fair return on that investment, and out of fairness to third parties that participate in our patent licensing program,” E. Earle Thompson, an intellectual property attorney for SanDisk, said in the statement. “Our goal is to resolve these matters by offering the defendants the opportunity to participate in our patent licensing program for card and system technology.”

The effort continues years of patent-related litigation aimed at SanDisk rivals including Ritek and Memorex. At least some of those efforts resulted in licensing agreements. For instance, in June, the company reached a cross-licensing deal with Ritek that ended a lengthy case pending against the Taiwanese firm.

Company spokespeople said SanDisk aims to be equally successful in encouraging some of its newest lawsuit targets to become licensees.

“The goal here is we want people to take a license on our significant and valuable IP,” SanDisk spokesman Mike Wong said in an interview with “The reason we’re doing it now is because we’re at the next stage for our system-level IP licensing program.”

In addition to Ritek, the company this year signed a deal with Italian intellectual property firm Sisvel, ending a patent dispute between the two.

Wong couldn’t immediately identify other companies that have agreed to become licensees for SanDisk’s Flash technology.

SanDisk has also been making strides outside of the courtroom. In January, the company introduced a 32GB, 1.8-inch solid state drive (SSD) to replace magnetic hard disk drives in laptops to mixed reviews.

The company also teamed up with Yahoo in April to release a WiFi-enabled MP3 player to challenge Apple’s ubiquitous iPod.

SanDisk closed off $1.70 a share, or 4 percent, to $40.12 per share at the close of Thursday trading.

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