Tera Xtal Technology Sues Apple for Patent Infringement

Supply Chain – After reporting on the rupture in the relationship between Apple and GT Advanced Technologies, Tera Xtal Corporation has filed a lawsuit against Apple, Senao International (retail chain) and Vibo Telecom for patent infringement of its Taiwan patent No. M438642.

The patent describes using a sapphire cover for a mobile device, where the sapphire is bonded directly to the shell. The patent was issued in 2012 and is valid in several countries including the US, as reported by Digitimes.

The Taipei Times reports that Tera Xtal has also sued GT Advanced Technologies for delivering flawed equipment to Tera Xtal.

Digitimes and the Taipei Times report that this lawsuit is Tera Xtal’s way of negotiating with Apple about licensing and/or supply contracts. A very interesting approach to becoming business partners indeed.

The sapphire industry was, for many years, a more or less slowly growing industry that was mainly driven by semiconductor and LED substrate materials. Both product types sold in high numbers, but used very small quantities of sapphire material per unit. Using sapphire as a cover for a 5″ + display would have changed this equation dramatically. Supply contracts with a partner like Apple could potentially make or break a company. Just ask GT Advanced Technologies, for example. With the sapphire cover glass hype still in full swing, we can expect that this will not change in the near future.

The mobile phone industry has to decide if sapphire is offering such a big advantage over chemically strengthened glass in smartphone applications, that it is worth going through all this trouble. The use of sapphire in the smartwatch is a different issue, as the smartwatch, similar to the wristwatch, is subjected to much more abuse and potential damage to the cover glass. As the size of a typical smartwatch is much smaller than a smartphone and the numbers are much lower compared to smartphones, the growth rates for the sapphire industry in this new market would be much more manageable and may lead to a more sustainable business, instead of jumping into the high volume smartphone market. – Norbert Hildebrand