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NOV.-DEC 2019       TAP TIMES          -6-          semiconductor competitors, found guilty
                                                                 of infringement, were excluded from brin-
                                                                 ing any chips assembled with bottom-gat-
                                                                 ing into the U.S.  Virtually all IC assembly
                  Bottom-gating (from 4)
                                                                 was then offshore, as it is now.
        TI alleged that Analog Devices and the
        four other semiconductor makers violated                 PC boards excluded
        Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930.
                                                                 In addition to importing chips, the five
                                                                 companies, unless they secured a license
        At the time, the few companies that were
        not using bottom-gating were employ-                     from TI, were not allowed to import PC
                                                                 boards containing bottom-gated chips.
        ing a method known as same-side- or top
        gating for plastic packages.
                                                                 This exclusion also applied to any compa-
                                                                 nies that placed bottom-gated chips on a
                                                                 circuit board as part of a system.
        A sharp light
        The infringement actions brought by TI to                Chips which were part of a system, such
        the ITC shone a sharp light on this then                 as computers “or other downstream prod-
        generally little-known agency, buttressing               ucts,” however were allowed importation.
        the ITC’s 1986 ruling against a handful of
        Japanese memory chip makers.                             probably because of the sheer difficulty of
                                                                 keeping track of all the components.

        In January 1986, the ITC ruled that sev-
        eral Japanese semiconductor makers vio-
        lated U.S. import provisions by  importing
        256K and larger memory by dumping—
        selling the chips at a price lower than
        their cost of manufacture (NY Times

        Japanese giants
        These memory importers included such                     One of TI’s Texas-based wafer fabs.  Virtually all of the
        behemoths as Fujitsu, Hitachi and Toshi-                 company’s packaging  has been done offshore for de-
        ba; the cheap imports devastated the U.S.                cades. The IC was invented at Texas Instruments.
                                                                                                                                   (TI photo)
        memory chip industry,
                                                                 The ruling by the ITC was not an easy, nor
        The ITC complaint was based on litiga-                   cheap victory for TI.
        tion filed by Micron Technology, then a
        tiny semiconductor maker near the potato
        fields of Boise, Idaho.                                  Receiving backlash
                                                                 During the course of the investigation,
        From its early start as a minor maker and                TI’s attempt to collect royalties on the
        seller of memory, after outlasting many                  patent were receiving backlash from the
        larger U.S. memory providers, Micron has                 companies that were already paying on
        become he world’s third largest memory                   the ‘027 patent, but believed it had be-
        seller, just behind Samsung and SK Hynix.                come entrenched as an industry standard
                                                                 and should not be subject to license.
        With the ITC’s pre-appeal ruling, the five                                                     Next page
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