Nikon Sued to Protect Its Lithography Technology

Nikon Corporation (“Nikon”) has filed lawsuits alleging infringement of intellectual properties against ASML, a Dutch semiconductor lithography system manufacturer, in the Netherlands, Germany and Japan.

Nikon claims that ASML and its optical component supplier Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH (“Zeiss”) have employed Nikon’s patented technology in ASML’s lithography systems without Nikon’s permission, thereby infringing Nikon’s patents.

The Immersion lithography technology, which Nikon tried to protect, has become essential in fabricating the state-of-the-art semiconductors used in smartphones, memory chips and countless other products. Today, ASML and Nikon are the only companies in the world that make and sell immersion lithography systems.

Nikon alleged that 76.3% of ASML’s sales in 2016, or approximately €3.5 billion (US$3.82), was derived from immersion lithography systems sales according to ASML’s publicly reported data. The OEM believes these systems use Nikon’s patented technology. The complaints, therefore, seek to bar ASML’s and Zeiss’s sale and distribution of these systems, as well as damages.

“We firmly believe that ASML’s unauthorized use of Nikon patents on our most advanced technologies, including immersion lithography technology, has enabled ASML to expand its lithography business,” Kazuo Ushida, president of Nikon said. “That is why we have decided to commence this litigation.”

This is not the first time the two have met in court. Back in 2001, Nikon filed suits against ASML over its using technology that Nikon had developed and patented without authorization. The case was settled on terms favorable to Nikon.

(Photo source: Reuters)

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