Spansion, IBM ink memory license pact

Apr. 29, 2008 – IBM and Spansion have signed a seven-year patent cross-licensing agreement that is expected to widen Spansion’s reach into flash memory design and manufacturing, and support both companies’ end-market interests in China.

Under the deal, Spansion would gain access to IBM’s vast patent vault, including recently developed “Racetrack” technology that combines attributes of flash and hard disk drives. For IBM’s part, it gains access to Spansion’s MirrorBit charge-trapping technology, touted as a successor to floating gate technology to scale flash memory beyond 45nm.

The two companies also plan to partner for future flash memory development, targeting the China market, where Spansion has final manufacturing (Suzhou), design (Suzhou, Beijing), and sales/marketing sites (Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen), and is working with top OEMs and wireless handset manufacturers.

“As the memory market continues to evolve, both technically and economically, IBM continues to do advanced research on new storage and memory technologies,” said Tom Reeves, VP of business development, IBM technology and intellectual property, in a statement. “IBM is open to forming new partnerships for the development and commercialization of such technologies.”

More background on IBM’s “Racetrack” technology — this work, published in a recent issue of Science and elaborated in a PR statement, describes efforts to utilize spin polarized current with magnetization in the “domain walls” or magnetic materials, resulting in a spin transfer torque on the domain wall, causing it to move. This simplifies the device because the current is passed directly across the domain wall without the need for additional field generators. Magnetic domains can thus be used to store information in columns of magnetic material arranged perpendicularly or horizontally on a wafer surface, with domain walls formed within the columns and delineated regions magnetized in opposite directions, each with a positive and negative pole. (Spacing is controlled by pinning sites along the “racetrack.”) Horizontal permalloy nanowires were used to create, move, and detect the domain walls through sequences of timed nanosecond spin-polarized current pulses.


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