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SanDisk sues STMicroelectronics

Company files patent infringement lawsuit and asks trade commission to halt shipment of rival's flash memory into the United States.

SanDisk has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against rival STMicroelectronics and has asked a trade commission to halt shipments of its competitor's flash memory into the United States.

SanDisk, the leader in flash memory cards, said Monday that it has asked the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate whether STMicroelectronics' NAND flash memory chips violate its patent. SanDisk also asked the commission to bar its rival's NAND chips from the United States.

This approach is familiar to SanDisk.

"The ITC confirmed the validity of our 5,172,338 patent in 1997 in our action against Samsung Electronics. We are looking forward to a speedy decision by the ITC," Earle Thompson, SanDisk's chief intellectual-property counsel, said in a statement. Shortly after that decision, SanDisk and Samsung entered a cross-licensing agreement for flash memory patents.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SanDisk has filed the lawsuit against STMicroelectronics in U.S. District Court in Northern California over the same patent, SanDisk said. The lawsuit also asks the court to declare that SanDisk's products do not infringe on 14 patents assigned to STMicroelectronics in the United States.

"We'll defend our position vigorously but will not comment on existing legal actions," said Michael Markowitz, a STMicroelectronics spokesman.

Geneva-based STMicroelectronics, the sixth-largest semiconductor supplier in the world, receives more than $1 billion of its revenue from chips it sells in the United States, ranging from flash memory to semiconductors for printers and monitors.

The flash memory card industry grew 82 percent last year to $3.64 billion, according to a report released in June by market researcher Gartner, and SanDisk held on to its lead position with a 29 percent slice of the market, in large part due to its CompactFlash and SD cards.

In May, SanDisk released a new lineup of small memory cards. The products included a semi-removable TransFlash module with SanDisk's smallest-ever memory card, an SD card with 1GB of capacity, and a combination SD card with 256MB of memory and WLAN connectivity for handheld devices.