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World's top chipmaking equipment maker claims Chinese rival may infringe IP

Lithography titan ASML names DongFang JingYuan Electron as a worry

The world's top manufacturer of lithography equipment, Dutch company Advanced Semiconductor Materials International (ASML), has warned that it believes a Chinese company may be selling chipmaking equipment that infringes its intellectual property rights.

News of the possible Chinese imitation emerged in ASML's 2021 annual report [PDF] in a section on intellectual property protection:

Early in 2021, we became aware of reports that a company associated with XTAL Inc, against which ASML had obtained a damage award for trade secret misappropriation in 2019 in the USA, was actively marketing products in China that could potentially infringe on ASML's IP rights.

The annual report, dated this week, names the possibly infringing company as DongFang JingYuan Electron.

The Chinese company is certainly in the chipmaking business and promotes itself as a source of offering electron beam inspection products that improve the yield of chipmaking processes, as well as critical dimension-scanning electron microscopes that improve quality during the same processes.

ASML's annual report doesn't specify what IP it thinks DongFang JingYuan Electron might be abusing, but states Chinese authorities have been informed.

China is widely suspected of using espionage – some of it state-sponsored – to secure information about technologies it feels are necessary for the nation's security and prosperity. FBI director Christopher Wray last week said the agency he leads is currently investigating over 2,000 attacks on US targets alone.

If China has turned its attention the Netherlands-based ASML, it will come as no surprise. The company is acknowledged as the world's premier source of machinery capable of employing the extreme ultraviolet lithography techniques needed to build advanced chips.

China aims to achieve silicon self-sufficiency as soon as is practicable, as it is keenly aware of its dependence on rival nations for technologies considered critical for its economic and security plans.

ASML's fear that its IP is being abused will reinforce arguments that China's belligerence must be countered.

ASML, for its part, has "reached out to certain customers urging them not to aid or abet" DongFang JingYuan Electron. ®

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