Merck Performance Materials has appealed in its patent lawsuit against Tri Chemical Laboratories (TCLC) over hafnium (Hf) precursor in South Korea.
The South Korean patent court validated TCLC’s patents in its first ruling but Merck has appealed, TheElec confirmed on Tuesday.
While still in appeal, the final ruling in the ongoing trial will have consequences for SK Trichem, which has the right to use TCLC’s patents. The process is called HAC by TCLC of Japan and it is the sole owner of the patents.
Merck is also planning to widen its patent lawsuits to China, sources said.
This could impact Hf precursor supply chain to SK Hynix, which runs a DRAM fab in Wuxi, China. SK Hynix and SK Trichem are both under the SK Group.
Hf precursor is a key material in the production of advanced DRAM semiconductors.
The precursor is a high-k material that is deposited on DRAM capacitors at the atomic level.
This is done to increase the conductivity of capacitors as interruptions between them can more easily happen when the circuit width is narrowed as they are in advanced, smaller chips.
Zirconium (Zr) was predominantly used for precursors of prior DRAMs but now chipmakers usually mix Zr and Hf.
SK Trichem’s last year revenue was 220 billion won and around 150 billion won of that came from its supply to affiliate SK Hynix.
For Merck, ending TCLC’s dominance of Hf precursor in patents will give it an opening to supply its Hf precursor to SK Hynix.
Meanwhile, Samsung procures its Hf precursor from Adeka of Japan.