Sionyx LLC v. Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., No. 19-2359 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Mazur discovered a process for creating “black silicon” by irradiating a silicon surface with ultra-short laser pulses to create a textured surface; the resulting black silicon has electronic properties different from traditional silicon. Several patents issued, including the 467 patent, from a 2001 patent application. SiOnyx was formed to commercialize black silicon. In 2006, SiOnyx met with Hamamatsu, which produces silicon-based photodetector devices. The parties entered into a nondisclosure agreement (NDA), providing that a party receiving confidential information shall maintain the information in strict confidence for seven years after the expiration of the agreement and acknowledges that the disclosing party claims ownership of the information and all patent rights. While the NDA was in effect, SiOnyx provided to Hamamatsu proposed architectures and a manufacturing process for a photodetector device, which were marked as confidential. Hamamatsu ultimately represented that it wished to develop its products alone. The NDA expired in 2008. In 2009, Hamamatsu notified SiOnyx that Hamamatsu intended to introduce a new photodiode that it did not believe infringed SiOnyx’s intellectual property or breached Hamamatsu’s confidentiality obligations. Hamamatsu filed patent applications in several countries. In 2010, Hamamatsu began releasing the accused products. SiOnyx began selling its own photodetector products. In 2014 a customer alerted SiOnyx to Hamamatsu’s patents.
The Federal Circuit affirmed that Hamamatsu breached the NDA and infringed the 467 patent. SiOnyx is entitled to sole ownership of the disputed U.S. Patents. The district court erred in failing to grant SiOnyx sole ownership of the Disputed Foreign Patents.