Hynix, SanDisk announce patent pact, joint venture

Companies will jointly manufacture NAND flash memory and develop four-bit-per-cell flash memory

Hynix Semiconductor and SanDisk have reached a patent cross-license agreement and will jointly manufacture and sell NAND flash memory in addition to developing four-bit-per-cell flash memory, the companies said Wednesday.

Both companies will invest in increased manufacturing capacity at Hynix, the world's No. 2 producer of DRAM (dynamic RAM) memory chips, based in South Korea.

The four-bit-per-cell flash technology, called x4, allows for more storage on a flash memory chip for the same manufacturing cost. Hynix had been collaborating with M-Systems Flash Disk Pioneers on x4 technology. SanDisk, however, bought M-Systems for $1.5 billion in November 2006.

Neither company detailed what happened to the collaboration on x4 after SanDisk bought M-Systems. But the new agreement resolves intellectual-property issues between them and puts aside "distractions," said O.C. Kwon, senior vice president of Hynix, in a statement.

On Tuesday, Hynix reached an agreement with Toshiba to share semiconductor patents, ending patent-infringement suits in the U.S. and Japan.

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