MACOM is suing Infineon Technologies, claiming that Infineon is violating a license agreement governing the use of GaN on Si technology. The IP agreement was first negotiated between Nitronex, the company that developed the GaN on Si technology, and International Rectifier (IR), who obtained rights to use the IP for the power electronics market. MACOM acquired Nitronex in 2014, and Infineon acquired IR in 2015.
While IR obtained rights to apply GaN on Si for power electronics, Nitronex retained exclusive rights to use GaN on Si for RF applications. GaN on Si is central to MACOM's strategy to disrupt the base station power amplifier market, as the company aims to replace LDMOS with GaN. According to MACOM, Nitronex and MACOM invested some $100 million over 15 years to bring GaN on Si technology to the "tipping point of market adoption."
MACOM's suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that Infineon "has attempted to interfere with and usurp MACOM’s rights," according to a MACOM press release. MACOM is asking the court to grant "declaratory and injunctive relief confirming its rights under the Nitronex-IR agreements and ordering Infineon to assign to MACOM several Nitronex GaN patents."
“Nitronex and IR, and later, MACOM and IR, successfully collaborated for many years. Problems developed only after Infineon acquired IR and began to try to ‘renegotiate’ the Nitronex-IR agreements to reduce MACOM’s rights,” said John Croteau, MACOM president and CEO. “When MACOM declined to accede to Infineon’s demands, Infineon concocted claims to interfere with our rights under the agreements.”
Infineon has long supplied LDMOS power transistors to the base station market and recently introduced two GaN transistors. Infineon is the #3 base station power transistor supplier, trailing NXP and Ampleon.
Infineon has not yet publicly responded to MACOM's lawsuit.
Listen to John Croteau's comments about the lawsuit, made during MACOM's fiscal Q2 earnings call on April 26, 2016.