U.S. Micron Technology and Taiwan UMC Reconcile
🟩 Micron and UMC’s Industrial Espionage Case
Taiwanese semiconductor foundry UMC has settled with memory semiconductor giant Micron Technology. The two companies withdrew their claims of intellectual property infringement and agreed that UMC would pay Micron an undisclosed amount. The two companies ended a four-year dispute triggered by the 2017 JHICC-UMC incident.
🟩 The JHICC-UMC incident that started
UMC (Lianghua Electronics) has been collaborating with China JHICC (Fujian Jinhua Shucheng Electric Road) since 2016 to develop DRAM-related process technology. UMC developed DRAM process technology for JHICC at its Tainan site, and JHICC paid $300 million to $700 million for R&D equipment.
In 2017, JHICC CEO to lead the project was Chen Zheng-kun, who joined UMC after serving as former president of Micron Taiwan. Chen pulled two engineers from Micron Taiwan to UMC to expand the DRAM business. Micron sued JHICC, UMC and former employees for allegedly stealing information related to DRAM manufacturing technology by former employees. This industrial espionage case is the JHICC-UMC case.
The U.S. government also intervenes
The U.S. Department of Justice, which took the transfer of advanced technology to China as problematic, sued UMC for violating the 2018 Federal Trade Secrets Protection Act. In addition, technical cooperation with UMC was suspended due to the addition of JHCC to the “Entity List,” the de facto U.S. embargo list. UMC agreed to pay a $60 million fine for trade secret litigation in 2020.
Meanwhile, JHCC and UMC had prosecuted Micron-related companies in China for rights infringement. As a result, some Micron products have been suspended from sale in China. This was so-called retaliation by China. Micron and UMC have reached a settlement over these intellectual property disputes.
Micron and UMC reach a settlement over an intellectual property dispute triggered by an industrial espionage scandal
JHICC (Fujian Province Jinhua Shucheng Electric Road) aims to produce DRAM domestically, which China has longed for, but the plan was derailed due to the trade friction between the United States and China.