U.S. regulators to probe flash memory in leading smartphones

Regulators at the U.S. International Trade Commission revealed plans to probe flash-memory chips used in popular smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone and Research In Motion's BlackBerry Storm, following a complaint from a company that the chips violate its patents.

The company, Pennsylvania-based BTG International, said flash-memory chips made by Samsung Electronics violate several of its patents. BTG is seeking to block the import of both the chips and products that use them. The company said that it patented the process in which the chips--multilevel NAND flash memory chips--store multiple pieces of information per cell without additional size or expense. The chips are also used in a variety of other devices, including laptops and camcorders.

The ITC said that, in addition to Samsung, it would request information from Apple, AsusTek, Dell, Lenovo, PNY Technologies, RIM, Sony and Transcent Information as part of the probe.

BTG filed a complaint with the ITC July 27. The company also filed a separate patent infringement lawsuit against many of the same companies July 20, and the ITC said it plans to investigate that as part of its inquiry.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this AP article

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