What It Takes to be a Patent Leader
By: Gary Dagastine
GLOBALFOUNDRIES was recently ranked No. 10 on SIA’s list of the top U.S. corporate patent recipients for 2016. We’re proud of that ranking because it’s more than just a number, it’s proof that the contributions GF employees make every day really matter, both for our company and for the industry overall.
We wanted to understand what it takes to make such an achievement possible because technology development is at the heart what we do. GF is full of smart, talented people but of course we couldn’t talk with everyone, so instead we contacted some of GF’s top patent recipients to get their insights. Each is a GLOBALFOUNDRIES Master Inventor.
Mukta Farooq is the Team Leader for 7nm Chip-Package Interaction and Packaging Technology. A GLOBALFOUNDRIES Fellow with 190 issued patents, she also is an IEEE Fellow, and a Distinguished Lecturer of the IEEE Electron Devices Society. She was previously Lifetime Master Inventor and Member of the Academy of Technology at IBM. Her areas of focus encompass 2D, 2.5D, and 3D chip package interaction and interconnect technologies.
Anthony (Tony) Stamper is a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff in Analog and Mixed-Signal Technology Development in Essex Junction. Also previously a Lifetime Master Inventor at IBM with more than 400 issued patents, his work has spanned pioneering processes and integration technologies such as low-temperature CVD dielectric development, low-k dielectrics, damascene copper wire integration and, more recently, state-of-the-art RF device design, process integration and program management.
Ruilong Xie is a Senior Member of the Technical Staff in Albany, working on advanced FinFET technology as part of the IBM Technology Development Alliance, where he is the lead FEOL integrator at the 5nm node. An IEEE Senior Member, he has more than 200 issued patents for his work with FinFETs and for other device types such as gate-all-around and vertical FETs. His published work has been cited more than 600 times worldwide.
GF: How do you look at the process of technology development?
Tony: The closer one is to state-of-the-art manufacturing development, the easier it is to exceed the thresholds for patent novelty and patent value. My work has focused on differentiated technologies that can lead to industry “firsts” and the generation of intellectual property and many patents that have great value. By differentiated technologies I don’t only mean simply trying to develop the fastest transistor, but also the development of new IC technologies for wiring performance, cost, yield, reliability, etc. – all the things which differentiate us from competitors and lead to success in the marketplace.
Mukta: Working in new areas of technology often means that things don’t work out initially, and that many attempts may be needed before something clicks. A case in point is 3D technology where copper Through-Silicon-Vias (TSVs) were integrated into 32 nm CMOS logic wafers. This endeavor had significant challenges early on. But, as we got deeper into the technology and gained understanding of the problems, we began to invent original, creative ways of getting around them, leading not only to the industry’s first 3D Cu TSV logic wafer, but also to intellectual property associated with it!
GF: In a company made up of incredibly smart and dedicated people, you are a leader in terms of issued patents. What has made this performance possible, and is there any advice you would like to give to others?
Ruilong: I’d like to thank all my managers and mentors who gave me the opportunity early on to work on almost all FEOL modules, which in turn enabled me to work with, and learn from, all module owners and other technology teams. These interactions helped me develop a good understanding of the big picture and also built a natural collaboration with many brilliant and talented people.
On a more personal level, a problem-solving frame of mind and persistence in thinking are essential. A positive attitude towards problems can help generating the creativity needed to solve the issues and problems we face. Very often, the best solution does not just come out immediately. Persistence in thinking, even in the background mode, allows the brain to process all related information and do divergent thinking. This usually leads to very good solutions after an incubation period.
Mukta: The advice I would give is that first you need to develop a level of expertise in a given field and become familiar with the existing art. After you gain familiarity, you can think of how to improve on existing structures and methods to deliver benefits. Once you have reached that level of knowledge, you can start inventing. Also, collaborating with others – especially those who may have different backgrounds – can result in unique approaches to solving technology problems.
Tony: Persistence, hard work, and teamwork. There is a mantra at work that there are no problems, just opportunities. From a patent perspective, problems are opportunities to author patents. Roughly half of the patents I have authored stemmed from the identification and solution of technical problems. Most of the patents I authored had multiple authors. Working in informal or formal patent development teams is invaluable.
GF: What does GLOBALFOUNDRIES do to encourage the pursuit of technical achievement?
Mukta: The race to get to the best technological solution is ever-present in semiconductor companies. While technologists will do the best they can, recognizing and rewarding innovation encourages out-of-the-box thinking. GF provides this encouragement with a rich patent awards program, and with the Master Inventor Program that serves to highlight and appreciate the innovators for their contributions to the company’s intellectual property.
Tony: GF encourages patent generation through its patent review boards and financial incentives. Having an algorithmic approach to fostering specific inventions helps foster innovation overall. In technology development, there typically are core teams of a few engineers focusing on certain problem areas. These core teams often set aside time regularly to meet and identify patent-able ideas. This openness to brainstorm and write patents fosters a creative environment at GLOBALFOUNDRIES.
Ruilong: GF has a learning-oriented culture which encourages new ideas and experimentation. Jobs are highly aligned with employee competencies, and usually there is a high degree of autonomy. Also, open communication among leaders and coworkers leads to mutual support. Here’s a recent example: In our 7nm development work, we encountered a big challenge in a module called the “gate cut.” To resolve the issue, we encouraged ideas from all resources. Very effective discussions were held between Albany and Malta, with experts from both sides who met, shared past learnings, and brainstormed together. In the end, almost every possible solution was generated. We carefully reviewed each one, ranked and prioritized the top ones to pursue in experiments, and several high-quality patents have also been filed.
GF: Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights!
Gary Dagastine is a writer who has covered the semiconductor industry for EE Times, Electronics Weekly and many specialized media outlets. He is a contributing editor at Nanochip Fab Solutions magazine and also is the Director of Media Relations for the IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting (IEDM), the world’s most influential technology conference for semiconductors. He started in the industry at General Electric Co. where he provided communications support to GE’s power, analog and custom IC businesses. Gary is a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York,