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May 31, 2006 6:49 pm

Freescale plays down chip risks

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Freescale, the US company whose computer chip was at the centre of a large scientific fraud in China, on Wednesday played down the risk posed by such incidents and said it was almost impossible to copy its products and sell them on the market.

Michel Mayer, chief executive of Freescale, one of the world’s largest chipmakers, said the devices a Chinese scientist claimed to have invented had not been manufactured and therefore the company had not detected the fraud. “They had no capability to actually build the product,” he said.

Mr Mayer said the company’s products were very hard to copy and market because they contained a high degree of customisation, unlike software whose constituent parts were much easier to discover.

“This chip was never on the market, nor could it ever be,” he said. “We are much less at risk than software companies.”

The real risk was not companies trying to copy finished products but people getting hold of innovations during the design process and incorporating them into their products. “What is important is to protect the design process and make sure your intellectual property is not taken out,” he said.

The Chinese case had been an example of fraud, rather than intellectual property infringement, and had not affected the company’s attitude to China.

Two weeks ago, Jiaotong University in Shanghai, one of China’s leading engineering universities, said it had fired Chen Jin, dean of the microelectronics school, for faking research behind a series of chips.

Mr Jin became one of the most high-profile scientists in the country in 2003 when he claimed to have created China’s first digital signal processing computer chips, devices used to process data from products such as cameras and mobile phones.

Local media revealed that his main achievement was actually a Freescale product, from which he had scrubbed off the label and presented as his own work in order to retain funding after he had failed to replicate the chip.

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