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article imageCanada's WiLAN invests in memory technology

By Georgia Williams     Jan 22, 2016 in Technology
Early last June, Canadian patent monetization firm, WiLAN, acquired Qimonda’s intellectual property portfolio, consisting of a collection of patents estimated to hold more than $100 million worth of licensing potential.
Then, in November 2015, WiLAN announced the acquisition of a portfolio of patents from Freescale Semiconductor, said to contain more than 3,300 patents related to a range of technologies, including processors and memory technology.
These high profile acquisitions happen to be just a couple of examples of the many headline-making developments in the area of patented technology in the computer and IT space.
Indeed, 2015 was yet another milestone year for the computing technology industry. It was also a milestone year for one critical component of computing technology: flash memory. Despite the fact that few of us outside of the IT industry know exactly where and how the memory in our computers works, rest assured the technology has enhanced computing exponentially.
2015 was the 35th anniversary of one type of memory system, flash memory. Elements of modern flash memory technology were developed by Dr. Fujio Masuoka sometime in 1980, while he was working for Toshiba. The technology was dubbed "flash" by a colleague of Dr. Masuoka's, who thought the flash drive’s quick erasure process was reminiscent of the flash on a camera.
In the three and half decades since its introduction, the varieties, capabilities and efficiency of memory technology has continued to grow. “NAND flash memory is used in a variety of memory cards and USB drives, and is found in many consumer, industrial and enterprise cloud applications,” writes Chris Preimesberger, editor-in-chief of E-week.
We have also seen the emergence of DRAM based memory systems, a viable alternative to NAND flash memory based systems.
The growth of memory capabilities has also played a critical role in the evolution and prevalence of mobile devices. Our smartphone’s ability to store and share photos, music and applications is a direct result of the implementation of flash memory technology.
While this technology has come a long way over the past three decades, experts are confident that memory technology will continue to evolve rapidly over the next five years. “Companies such as Intel and Samsung are predicting major advances in 3D NAND, where the basic one-transistor-per-cell architecture of flash memory is stacked into three dimensional arrays within a chip,” writes Rupert Goodwins.
Last year, Canadian intellectual property licensing firm, WiLAN, acquired a large technology patent portfolio from Qimonda, a now insolvent German company that developed computer memory technology. The Qimonda portfolio WiLAN acquired contained more than 7,000 patents and applications relating to dynamic random access memory, semiconductor processes, semiconductor manufacturing, semiconductor circuitry, lithography, packaging and memory interfaces. Included in this portfolio were also valuable DRAM memory technology patents.
WiLAN acquired the Qimonda portfolio for approximately $33 million US dollars.
As a sign of just how valuable WiLAN’s Qimonda patent acquisition was, the same month the company acquired the portfolio, WiLAN struck a deal with Samsung, licensing some of the technology in the Qimonda portfolio to Samsung.
In a press release from WiLAN, the Ottawa patent monetization firm affirmed that the Qimonda portfolio represented WiLAN's most important patent acquisition to date. The company expects that licensing out technology in the Qimonda portfolio will yield more than $100 million in return over the next eight years. This is a return made more believable by WiLAN’s quick turnaround deal with Samsung.
An expected $100 million return also lends weight to just how valuable memory technology has become. In late 2015, WiLAN also acquired the Freescale Semiconductor patent portfolio, a portfolio holding more than 3,000 patents. As a note, Freescale is considered a leader in processing and sensing solutions and its patented flash memory components are highly sought after.
“The acquired [Freescale] portfolio includes U.S. and foreign patents across a range of technologies, including processors, memory, semiconductor packaging, wireless, and the Internet of Things, among others,” a Yahoo Finance release described. “WiLAN believes this portfolio is complementary to its existing portfolios and presents new growth opportunities.”
Developing faster, more robust memory systems is critical to every company’s success. Tech experts are forecasting a significant increase in the storage potential of our current memory systems over the next two years. This will be a direct result of combining 32-deep 3D NAND with multi-level cells that will double the storage capacity for each transistor.
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