Legal risks remain
The invalidation of patents related to silicon carbide (SiC) ring owned by TCK is expected to open the door for followers to enter the lucrative market for the semiconductor production material.
However, legal risks remain for them, while large customers have strict customizing standards for SiC rings.
KNJ, DS Techno and other SiC ring after market companies are currently conducting quality tests with Samsung Electronics.
SiC ring is used to fix the wafer in place during semiconductor production. It is more durable than silicon rings so can be used longer.
Silicon rings are swapped around ten to 12 days after use. For SiC rings, use time is between 15 to 20 days.
Up to now, TCK had owned over 80% of the global market share in SiC rings. The firm had used its patents related to the product to prevent competitors from entering the market.
However, a recent patent court in South Korea invalidated two of its patents related to SiC rings in its lawsuit with DS Techno.
KNJ, DS Techno and Hana Materials are some of the companies that are manufacturing SiC rings.
Hana Materials and TCK are before market companies. These companies supply their SiC rings to fab equipment maker, not directly to the chip maker. They offer warranty for the products used together with the fab equipment to the chip makers.
KNJ and DS Techno are after market companies. They supply directly to the chipmaker, which uses them when the warranty in before market products expire and they want to save cost or customize the product. The pair are conducting quality tests with Samsung.
However, TCK still owns other patents related to SiC rings besides the two that have been invalidated.
There is a chance that it may use these to file lawsuits against its rivals, which could disrupt their production.
Samsung also requires strict standards for its customized after market SiC rings.