August 8, 2007 – Nearly a year after putting some of its lithography metrology patents up for auction, Nova Measuring Instruments says it has signed a >$1 million deal with an unnamed “top-10 semiconductor manufacturer” for a license covering use of its technologies for integrated metrology and integrated process control before and during the photolithography manufacturing step.
The deal, which the company says follows response from several semiconductor manufacturing companies interested in the patents, “is clear evidence of the strength of the IP and its importance to semiconductor manufacturing,” said Gabi Seligsohn, president/CEO of Nova, in a statement, adding that the company will “continue discussions with additional companies interested in licensing or purchasing these patents.”
In an e-mail exchange, Seligsohn clarified to WaferNEWS that Nova is still “in active discussions” regarding both licensing and outright sale of the patents, but that this first license was crafted to be “in perpetuity” to guard against possible strategic maneuverings, “such that the possible new proprietor will have no ability to enforce the patents against a licensee.”
In Sept. 2006 the company started soliciting bids from approximately 100 companies to license six of its patents relating to use of a lithography tool with integrated metrology, including bids for outright ownership of the technology. Four of the patents relate to a lithography track with integrated optical measurement capability, used with overlay registration, critical dimensions, and macrodefect inspection. Two others, from the company’s advanced process control group, are for methods for photolithographic processing involving making a spectrophotometric measurement and using it to influence the processing time, focus or exposure of a processing tool.