Microchip Technology, the Chandler-based producer of microcontrollers, said Friday it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Zilog, a San Jose, Calif.-based semiconductor company.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, alleges that a line of Zilog microcontroller chips infringes on three Microchip Technology patents covering 8-pin microcontrollers.
"The technology breakthroughs that have enabled Microchip to achieve its position of leadership in 8-pin microcontroller products are protected by a strong patent portfolio," Microchip chief executive Steve Sanghi said. "We are resolved to enforce those patents against infringers, to protect our investments in research and development and the interests of our employees and shareholders."
A spokesman for Zilog could not be reached for comment.
In the suit, Microchip said Zilog’s 8-pin Z8 Encore! XP 4K series of microcontrollers infringes on patents covering Microchip products that were introduced in 1996. The suit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and damages.
The microcontrollers are used in a variety of electronic products where space is limited such as blenders, toasters, coffee machines and electric toothbrushes, Microchip spokesman Eric Lawson said.
The 8 pins refer to tiny metal pieces that connect the silicon microcontroller to other components on the circuit board, he said. Although the technology has been superseded by later 6-pin chips, Lawson said the 8-pin microcontrollers remain popular with engineers who design electronic products "due to our continued research and development and new devices in 8-pin packages with higher levels of features and functionality."
Microchip’s PIC 12 family of 8-pin microcontrollers were the smallest microcontrollers in the world when they were introduced, he said.
Zilog, which was founded in 1974 by a former Intel engineer, is a maker of 8-bit microcontrollers used in consumer electronics, cash registers, automobile components and other products. The company was acquired in 1998 by Texas Pacific Group, which, after the chip market plummeted, reorganized the company in a Chapter 11 proceeding in 2001.