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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

FORM 10-K

 

 

 

 

(Mark One)

 

 

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016

 

or

 

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the transition period from                to

Commission file number 001-33170

 

NETLIST, INC.

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

 

 

 

 

Delaware
State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization

95-4812784
(I.R.S. employer Identification No.)

175 Technology Drive, Suite 150

Irvine, CA 92618  

(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip Code)

(949) 435-0025

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

 

Title of each class

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, par value $0.001 per share

The NASDAQ Capital Market

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:

None

(Title of class)

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐  No ☒

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐  No ☒

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒  No ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes ☒  No ☐

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ☐

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

 

 

 

Large accelerated filer ☐

Accelerated filer ☐

Non-accelerated filer ☐
(Do not check if a
smaller reporting company)

Smaller reporting company ☒

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐  No ☒

 

The aggregate market value of the registrant’s voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates, computed by reference to the price at which the registrant’s common stock was last sold on July 2, 2016, the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, as reported by The NASDAQ Capital Market, was approximately $53.8 million. For purposes of this calculation, it has been assumed that all shares of the registrant’s common stock held by directors, executive officers and persons beneficially owning ten percent or more of the registrant’s common stock are held by affiliates. The treatment of these persons as affiliates for purposes of this calculation is not, and shall not be considered, a determination as to whether such persons are affiliates of the registrant for any other purpose.

 

The number of shares outstanding of the registrant’s common stock, as of the latest practicable date:

61,688,019 shares of the registrant’s common stock were outstanding at March 24, 2017

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the definitive proxy statement for the registrant’s 2017 annual meeting of stockholders have been incorporated by reference into Part III of this report.

 

 

 

 

 


 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

31

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements  

 

PART I  

 

 

 

Item 1  

Business

 

3  

Item 1A  

Risk Factors

 

12 

Item 1B  

Unresolved Staff Comments

 

34 

Item 2  

Properties

 

34 

Item 3  

Legal Proceedings

 

34 

Item 4  

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

34 

PART II  

 

 

 

Item 5  

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

 

34 

Item 6  

Selected Financial Data

 

35 

Item 7  

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

 

36 

Item 7A  

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

52 

Item 8  

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

 

52 

Item 9  

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

 

52 

 

 

 

 

Item 9A  

Controls and Procedures

 

52 

Item 9B  

Other Information

 

53 

PART III  

 

 

53 

Item 10  

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

 

53 

Item 11  

Executive Compensation

 

54 

Item 12  

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

 

54 

Item 13  

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

 

54 

Item 14  

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

 

54 

PART IV  

 

 

 

Item 15  

Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules

 

54 

Item 16  

Form 10-K Summary

 

54 

SIGNATURES  

 

 

55 

 

 

 

 

EXHIBIT INDEX  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

 

This report includes “forward‑looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are statements other than historical facts and often address future events and our future performance. Words such as "anticipate," "estimate," "expect," "project," "intend," "may," “will,” “might,” "plan," "predict," "believe," "should," “could” and similar words or expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words.

Forward-looking statements contained in this report include statements about, among other things:

·

our plans relating to our intellectual property, including our strategy for monetizing, licensing, expanding, and defending our patent portfolio;

 

·

our expectations with respect to strategic partners, including our relationship with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (“Samsung”) and the potential for commercial licensing agreements;

 

·

our expectations regarding outstanding legal proceedings and patent reexaminations relating to our intellectual property portfolio, including our pending proceedings against SK hynix Inc., a South Korean memory semiconductor supplier (“SK hynix”);

 

·

our beliefs regarding the market and demand for our products;

 

·

the competitive landscape of our industry;

 

·

general market, economic and political conditions; and

 

·

our expectations regarding our strategy, business plans and objectives, our future operations and financial position, including future revenues, costs and prospects, and our liquidity and capital resources, including cash flows, sufficiency of cash resources, efforts to reduce expenses and the potential for future financings.

All forward-looking statements reflect management’s present expectations regarding future events and are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in or implied by any forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include those described in Item 1A “Risk Factors” of this report. Given these risks, uncertainties and other important factors, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements represent our estimates and assumptions only as of the date made, and except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason.   We qualify all of our forward-looking statements by this cautionary statement.

Unless the context indicates otherwise, all references to "Netlist," our "Company," "we," "us," or "our" in this  report  refer to Netlist, Inc., together with its subsidiaries.   Although we do not use the “®” or “™” symbol in each instance in which one of our registered or common law trademarks appears in this report, we own registered or unregistered trademark rights to NVvault®, HyperCloud®, HybriDIMM™, EXPRESSvault™, PreSight™, “memory at storage capacities, storage at memory speeds”™, and Netlist,Inc.. Any other service marks, trademarks or trade names appearing in this report are the property of their respective owners.

 

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PART I

 

Item 1.  Business

 

Overview

 

We are a leading provider of high-performance modular memory subsystems serving customers in diverse industries that require superior memory performance to empower critical business decisions. We have a long history of introducing disruptive new products, such as one of the first load reduced dual in-line memory modules ("LRDIMM") based on our distributed buffer architecture, which has been adopted by the industry for DDR4 LRDIMM. We were also one of the first to bring NAND flash memory ("NAND flash") to the memory channel with our NVvault non-volatile dual in-line memory modules ("NVDIMM") using software-intensive controllers and merging dynamic random access memory integrated circuits (“DRAM ICs” or "DRAM") and NAND flash to solve data bottleneck and data retention challenges encountered in high-performance computing environments. We recently introduced a new generation of storage class memory products called HybriDIMM to address the growing need for real-time analytics in Big Data applications and in-memory databases.

 

Due to the ground-breaking product development of our engineering teams, we have built a robust portfolio of over 100 issued and pending U.S. and foreign patents, many seminal, in the areas of hybrid memory, storage class memory, rank multiplication and load reduction. Since our inception in 2000, we have dedicated substantial resources to the development and protection of technology innovations essential to our business. Our early pioneering work in these areas has been broadly adopted in industry-standard LRDIMM and in NVDIMM. Our objective is to continue to innovate in our field and invest further in our intellectual property portfolio, with the goal of monetizing our intellectual property through a combination of product sales and licensing, royalty or other revenue-producing arrangements, which may result from defense of our patents through enforcement actions against parties we believe are infringing them. These arrangements can be structured in a variety of ways, including one-time paid-up fees or ongoing royalty arrangements. We aim to generate a portion of our revenues with this type of arrangement in the future, while continuing to pursue revenue growth from sales of our products.

 

In November 2015, we entered into a joint development and license agreement (“JDLA”) with Samsung pursuant to which we and Samsung have agreed to work together to jointly develop new storage class memory technologies including a standardized product interface for NVDIMM-P memory modules in order to facilitate broad industry adoption of this new technology. The JDLA also includes comprehensive cross-licenses to our and Samsung’s patent portfolios for the purpose of developing these new technologies, grants Samsung a right of first refusal to acquire our HybriDIMM technology before we offer the technology to a third party and grants us access to competitively priced DRAM and NAND flash raw materials. The JDLA also provided for a non-recurring engineering (“NRE”) fee that we received from Samsung for the joint development and calls for potential marketing collaboration and for the exchange of potential monetary consideration as progress is made towards commercialization of our storage class memory product. Moreover, we believe Samsung represents an important strategic partner with a high level of technical capability in memory that can facilitate bringing our HybriDIMM technology to market.

 

Further, in September 2016, we took action to protect and defend our innovations by filing legal proceedings for patent infringement against SK hynix and two of its subsidiaries in the U.S. International Trade Commission ("ITC") and in district court. We are seeking an exclusion order in the ITC that directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop allegedly infringing SK hynix RDIMM and LRDIMM products from entering the United States. The evidentiary hearing in the ITC investigations will occur in May 2017, with a final initial determination expected to be issued by the ITC in October 2017. In the district court proceedings, we are primarily seeking damages. Our patents involved in the proceedings cover key features of RDIMM and LRDIMM, which we believe are strategic product lines for SK hynix that together account for a significant portion of SK hynix's total revenue and profits.

 

Our Industry

 

The global high-performance memory module market is driven by increasing demand from data center and enterprise storage applications for improved input/output (I/O) performance, lower latency and data retention capabilities

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in the event of unexpected system failure. Global data center IP traffic is expected to reach 40 zettabytes of data in 2020, corresponding to 40 billion terabyte storage drives of data, up from 3.4 zettabytes in 2014. The proliferation of mobile devices, social media platforms and cloud-based software applications is resulting in the creation of unprecedented amounts of unstructured data. In order to manage and analyze this data, new computing and memory architectures are not satisfying the needs in the industry.

 

In high-performance computing environments, such as cloud-based computing and Big Data applications, a system's overall processing speed is limited to the central processing unit's ("CPU") ability to access data cached in memory. Memory speeds have failed to keep pace with improvements in CPU processing speeds, resulting in buffering delays encountered in highly intensive computing environments. To mitigate challenges arising from differences in CPU and memory clock speeds, data center operators have increased the number of servers in their facilities as well as the memory content in each server. Memory capacity is expanded through the use of DIMMs, generally incorporating up to 16 GB of DRAM per module with today’s technology and moving up to 64 GB of DRAM per module and beyond. Our technology enables an intelligent controller to be integrated onto the DIMM, in order to manage the rapid flow of data between the CPU and memory. The number of DIMMs incorporated into a server increases in correlation with the number of processing cores in the CPU. DDR4 DIMMs incorporate our load-reduction technology to mitigate the trade-off between operating speed and memory capacity inherent in prior generations of server DIMM. These load-reduced DIMMs, or LRDIMMs, are now the pre-dominant memory technology used in high-capacity servers and high-performance computing clusters.

 

Technical challenges arising from the production of DRAM using leading edge semiconductor manufacturing processes is limiting the material's long-term viability as the high-speed memory of choice in demanding computing environments. Conversely, NAND flash, while characterized by lower access speeds, is scaling down in cost and scaling up in density at a significantly better rate than DRAM. This has led the industry to explore alternative computer architectures and new memory materials capable of bridging DRAM's superior access speed with NAND flash's lower cost and higher densities. We expect that memory subsystems relying on intelligent controller technology to leverage NAND flash will most effectively address the industry's growing need for high-speed data management and analytics.

 

Products

 

GRAPHIC

 

Our ability to introduce new or enhanced products that achieve customer or market acceptance in a timely manner has been and we believe will continue to be important factors in developing and maintaining our competitive position. Below are descriptions of our commercially available products and our new products that have been publicly announced, as well as other products that we sell.

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Storage Class Memory

 

Using an industry standard DDR4 LRDIMM interface, we believe our HybriDIMM is the industry’s first storage class product capable of operating in existing Intel x86 servers without BIOS and hardware changes.  HybriDIMM unifies DRAM and NAND flash in a plug-and-play module delivering terabyte storage capacities operating at nanosecond memory speeds. HybriDIMM’s architecture combines an on-DIMM co-processor with our PreSight predictive software-defined data management algorithm. HybriDIMM’s feature-set encompasses the NVDIMM functionalities adopted by the industry. HybriDIMM dramatically improves application performance by reducing data access latency by up to 1,000 times versus the fastest existing storage solution and provides up to an 80% cost reduction compared to the highest existing memory density for in-memory applications. We publicly demonstrated a HybriDIMM prototype in August 2016, and we are planning to sample HybriDIMM with customers in the second half of 2017 and subsequently work with customers to transition to volume production.

 

Nonvolatile Memory

 

Our Vault product line enables customers to accelerate data running through their servers and storage and reliably protect enterprise-level cache, metadata and log data by providing near instantaneous recovery in the event of a system failure or power outage.  In 2015, sales of these products represented approximately 20% of our net product sales. Listed below is a summary of our nonvolatile memory offering.

 

EXPRESSvault PCIe (EV3). EV3 is a plug-and-play memory card for server appliances which provides data acceleration and data protection.  It is compatible with industry standard PCIe 3.0 x8 lane slots, eliminating the need for proprietary hardware and extra motherboard space.  EXPRESSvault ships with Linux and Windows drivers compatible with standard PCIe peripheral command sets.

 

NVvault DDR3 NVDIMM (NV3). NV3 provides data acceleration and data protection in a Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (“JEDEC”) standard DD3 interface for integration into industry-standard server and storage solutions. NV3 incorporates our patented Vault cache-to-flash controller in conjunction with general purpose CPUs, redundant array of independent disks (“RAID”) adapters and other devices.

 

NVvault DDR4 NVDIMM (NV4). NV4 relies on the NVDIMM-N interface specification to provide data acceleration and data protection in a JEDEC standard DDR4 interface.  We have demonstrated NV4 to deliver a 200% performance improvement in transaction-based workloads compared to PCIe NAND devices.

 

Specialty DIMMs and Embedded Flash

 

A portion of our net product sales is from original equipment manufacturer (“OEM”) sales of specialty memory modules and flash-based products, the majority of which are utilized in data center and industrial applications.  When developing custom modules for an OEM system launch, we engage with our OEM customers from the earliest stages of new product development definition, providing us valuable insight into their full range of system architecture and performance requirements.  This close collaboration has also allowed us to develop a significant level of systems expertise. We leverage a portfolio of proprietary technologies and design techniques, including efficient planar design, alternative packaging techniques and custom semiconductor logic, to deliver memory subsystems with persistence, high density, small form factor, high signal integrity, attractive thermal characteristics, reduced power consumption and low cost per bit.

 

Component and Other Product Resales

 

We also resell certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model. In 2016, resales of these products represented approximately 21% of our net product sales. Additionally, we sell excess component inventory of DRAM ICs and NAND flash to distributors and other users of memory integrated circuits.

 

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Technology

 

We have developed our products based on our portfolio of proprietary technologies and design techniques. Below are descriptions of our technology competencies.

 

PreSight Technology

 

PreSight technology is, we believe, a breakthrough that allows for data that lives on a slower media, such as NAND flash, to coexist on the memory channel without breaking the deterministic nature of the memory channel. This is achieved by pre-fetching data into DRAM before an application needs it and ensures the memory channel’s integrity is maintained while moving the data on the DIMM. PreSight technology is material and protocol agnostic, allowing for leverage of future storage and memory technologies on the DIMM. Our HybriDIMM incorporates our PreSight technology for predictive memory management. 

 

Distributed Buffer Architecture

 

We invented the distributed buffer architecture that enables the buffering of data signals along the bottom edge of the memory module using multiple data buffer devices distributed between the edge connector and the DRAM. The result is shorter data paths, improved signal integrity and reduced latency compared to the industry-standard design for LRDIMM. Our HyperCloud product was our first load reduced DIMM built on this distributed buffer architecture.

 

IC Design Expertise

 

We have designed special algorithms that can be implemented in stand-alone integrated circuits or integrated into other functional blocks in application-specific integrated circuits (“ASICs”). We utilize these algorithms in our HybriDIMM product to incorporate rank multiplication and load reduction functionality. We also incorporate these algorithms in our NVvault product line of RDIMMS.

 

Proprietary PCB Designs

 

We utilize advanced techniques to optimize electronic signal strength and integrity within a PCB. These techniques include the use of 8-layer or 10-layer boards, matching conductive trace lengths, a minimized number of conductive connectors, or vias, and precise load balancing to, among other benefits, help reduce noise and crosstalk between adjacent traces. In addition, our proprietary designs for the precise placement of intra-substrate components allow us to assemble memory subsystems with significantly smaller physical size, enabling OEMs to develop products with smaller footprints for their customers.

 

Very Low Profile Designs

 

We believe we were the first company to create memory subsystems in a form factor of less than one inch in height. Our innovative very low profile (“VLP”) DIMMs provide developers of server blades, storage bridge bay applications, telecommunications servers, switches and routers with a wide range of high performance memory options where efficient use of motherboard space is critical. Our technology has allowed us to decrease the system board space required for memory, and improve thermal performance and operating speeds, by enabling our customers to use alternative methods of component layout. Our latest VLP memory product includes a patented PlanarX memory module technology providing 32 gigabyte 4Rx4 memory solutions for dense space requirements.

 

Thermal Management Designs

 

We design our memory subsystems to ensure effective heat dissipation. We use thermal cameras to obtain thermal profiles of the memory subsystem during the design phase, allowing us to rearrange components to enhance

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thermal characteristics and, if necessary, replace components that do not meet specifications. We also develop and use proprietary heat spreaders to enhance the thermal management characteristics of our memory subsystems.

 

Our Strategy

 

Our objective is to be the leading supplier of storage class memory and other high-performance hybrid memory solutions. Key aspects of our growth strategy include:

 

Invest to Extend Our Intellectual Property Portfolio

 

We believe we own the largest portfolio of patents pertaining to high-performance server memory, hybrid memory and storage class memory that have withstood legal challenges. We believe our patent portfolio covers a range of high-volume products in the marketplace today that incorporate and practice our pioneering work in the field of high-performance memory and hybrid memory. We intend to continue investing in our intellectual property portfolio to further establish ourselves as an innovator in the high-performance memory subsystem market and to identify emerging customer requirements for future generations of products. This may include filing additional U.S. and foreign patent applications related to our technology advancements in order to expand the scope and strengthen the position of our portfolio.

 

Actively Pursue Intellectual Property Monetization Opportunities

 

We intend to vigorously defend our patent portfolio and other intellectual property rights, including, when necessary, through pursuit of enforcement actions seeking injunctive relieve or monetary damages, and aggressively pursue monetization avenues for these rights, including licensing, royalty or other revenue-producing arrangements. We dedicate substantial resources to protecting our intellectual property, including efforts to defend our patents against challenges made by way of reexamination and review proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”), and we expect these activities to continue for the foreseeable future.

 

Increase our Net Product Sales from our Base of Hybrid Memory Products

 

We intend to drive adoption of our portfolio of nonvolatile memory subsystems, EV3 and NV4, through collaboration with ecosystem partners.

 

Customers

 

In 2016, we primarily marketed and sold our products to leading OEMs in the server, high-performance computing and communications markets. Additionally, we resell certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model, including storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. Consistent with the concentrated nature of the customer base in our target markets, a small number of large customers have historically accounted for a significant portion of our net product sales.  Net product sales to our largest customer, UATC, LLC, represented approximately 16% of our net product sales in 2016, and Dell and Singh Semiconductor and Systems represented approximately 27% and 10% of our net product sales in 2015, respectively. For further information regarding our customer base, refer to Note 10 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this report.

 

The composition of major customers and their respective contributions to our net product sales have varied and will likely continue to vary from period to period as our existing and prospective customers progress through the life cycle of the products they produce and sell.

 

We do not have long-term agreements with any of our customers. Our sales are made primarily pursuant to standard purchase orders that we often receive no more than two weeks in advance of the desired delivery date and that may be rescheduled or cancelled on relatively short notice, which reduces our backlog of firm orders and our ability to

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accurately estimate future customer requirements for our products. Customers are generally allowed limited rights of return for up to 30 days, except for sales of excess inventories, which contain no right-of-return privileges.

 

Additionally, we offer warranties on our memory subsystems generally ranging from one to three years, depending on the product and negotiated terms of purchase agreements with our customers. Such warranties require us to repair or replace defective products returned to us during such warranty period at no cost to the customer.

 

For additional information regarding our net product sales from external customers by geographic area, refer to Note 11 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this report. The international scope of our operations, including our sales of products to customers located outside the United States and our manufacturing operations located outside the United States, exposes us to significant risks, such as, for instance, operational integration and currency exchange challenges and uncertainties in the economic and political climate in the countries in which we operate or make sales, including pronounced uncertainties regarding trade restrictions following the results of the recent U.S. presidential election. Refer to Item 1A. Risk Factors of this report for more information.

 

Sales and Marketing

 

We primarily market and sell our products through a direct sales force and a network of independent sales representatives.  Our sales activities focus primarily on developing strong relationships at the technical, marketing and executive management levels within existing and prospective OEM and ODM customers, large Datacenters and system builder customers.

 

We utilize well-trained, highly technical program management teams to drive new product development and quickly respond to our customers' needs and expectations. Our program management teams provide quick response times and act as a single point-of-contact for issues that may arise during the sales process. Additionally, they help us address the long-term business and technology goals of our customers. We employ a team approach to business development whereby our sales team and independent representatives identify, qualify and prioritize customer prospects through offices in a number of locations worldwide.

 

Manufacturing

 

We manufacture substantially all of our products at our facility in Suzhou in the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”). This in-house manufacturing, combined with our advanced engineering and design capabilities, allows us to assemble our memory subsystems reliably and in high volume. Our manufacturing facility is capable of surface mount assembly, subsystem testing, system‑level burn-in testing, programming, marking, labeling and packaging. At each stage of the production cycle, including product prototyping, qualification sample production and high-volume manufacturing and delivery, we focus on providing our customers with rapid response and short manufacturing turn-around times. Manufacturing cycle times for our products, from receipt of order, are typically one week or less and in some cases as short as two days.

 

We acquire components and materials such as field-programmable gate arrays (“FPGAs”), ASICs, DRAM ICs and NAND flash, directly from integrated circuit manufacturers and assemble them into finished subsystems. We have developed strong supplier relationships with several manufacturers of these components, which we believe gives us direct and ready access to the critical components we need for our production activities. Additionally, we typically qualify our products with our customers using multiple component manufacturers, which affords us the flexibility to choose from several suppliers. We believe that this efficient procurement and management of components for our subsystems benefits our customers in the form of lower costs and increased product availability. While we have developed relationships with a number of component suppliers that we could potentially use, our actual purchases of inventory are concentrated in a small number of suppliers, including Samsung Semiconductor, Inc., from which we obtained 73% of our total inventory purchases in 2016, and Arrow Electronics and Barun Electronics, Inc., from which we obtained 14% and 12% of our total inventory purchases in 2015, respectively. Further, our JDLA with Samsung contractually commits Samsung to supply NAND flash and DRAM products to us upon our request at competitive prices. For further information regarding our supplier concentrations, refer to Note 10 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this report. We schedule production based on purchase order commitments and

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anticipated orders. We release raw materials to the manufacturing floor by means of an online shop floor control system, which allows for internal quality analysis, direct access to inventory information and production floor material tracking. We have a flexible manufacturing workforce, which allows us to manage unforecasted demand. In addition, in order to mitigate inventory risks, we have the capability to sell excess quantities of certain component inventories of DRAM ICs and NAND flash to distributors and other users of memory integrated circuits. 

 

Our quality assurance engineers work with our suppliers to ensure that the raw materials we receive meet our high quality standards. These engineers also perform onsite supplier factory audits and use our internal test and inspection systems to verify that purchased components and materials meet our specifications. Our supplier quality program and incoming material quality control program are important aspects of our overall manufacturing process.

 

We perform ongoing reliability testing on our memory subsystems and share the results of that testing with our customers. We believe that this improves the system design process and allows for the elimination of potential problems at an early stage of the manufacturing process. In addition, we have implemented procedures that require all of our memory subsystems to undergo functional and system burn-in testing prior to delivery to a customer. We also supplement our test capabilities with advanced imaging technology to inspect the quality of our assemblies.

 

Our manufacturing facility is certified in International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) 9001:2008 Quality Management Systems and ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Standards.

 

Competition

 

Our products are primarily targeted to OEMs in the server, high-performance computing and data storage markets. These markets are intensely competitive, as numerous companies vie for business opportunities at a limited number of large OEMs and other customers. We face competition from DRAM suppliers, memory module providers and logic suppliers for many of our products, including EXPRESSvault, NVvault and HybriDIMM. Additionally, if and to the extent we enter new markets or pursue licensing arrangements to monetize our technologies and intellectual property portfolio, we may face competition from a large number of competitors that produce solutions utilizing similar or competing technologies.

 

Some of our customers and suppliers may have proprietary products or technologies that are competitive with our products, or could develop internal solutions or enter into strategic relationships with, or acquire, other high-density memory module providers. Any of these actions could reduce our customers’ demand for our products. Some of our significant suppliers of memory integrated circuits may be able to manufacture competitive products at lower costs by leveraging internal efficiencies, or could choose to reduce our supply of memory integrated circuits, which could adversely affect our ability to manufacture our memory subsystems on a timely basis, if at all.

 

Certain of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, marketing, distribution and other resources, broader product lines, lower cost structures, greater brand recognition and longer standing relationships with customers and suppliers. Some of our competitors may also have a greater ability to influence industry standards than we do. Additionally, some of our competitors may have more extensive or established patent portfolios than we do. We may not be able to compete effectively against any of these organizations.

 

We expect our competitors to continue to improve the performance of their current products and potentially reduce their prices. In addition, our competitors may develop future generations and enhancements of competitive products or new or enhanced technologies that may offer greater performance and improved pricing or render our technologies obsolete. Our ability to compete in our current target markets and potential future markets will depend in large part on our ability to successfully develop, introduce and sell new and enhanced products or technologies on a timely and cost-effective basis and to respond to changing market requirements. We believe that the principal competitive factors in the selection of high-performance memory subsystems by existing and potential future customers are:

 

·

price;

 

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·

timeliness of new value-add product introductions;

 

·

development of advanced technologies;

 

·

fulfillment capability and flexibility;

 

·

understanding of OEM system and business requirements ;

 

·

design characteristics and performance;

 

·

quality and reliability;

 

·

track record of volume delivery; and

 

·

credibility with the customer

 

We believe that we compete favorably with respect to these factors. However, if our target markets disagree or if circumstances changes with respect to one or more of these competitive factors, our market position and prospectus could deteriorate and our revenues could decline.

 

Research and Development

 

Our industry is characterized by rapid technological change, evolving industry standards and rapid product obsolescence. As a result, continuous development of new technology, processes and product innovation is necessary in order to be successful. We believe that the continued and timely development of new products and improvement of existing products are critical to our business and prospects for growth.

 

To this end, we have assembled a team of engineers with expertise in computer architectures, system memory, subsystem design and memory software, as well as PCB design, VLP design and thermal management. Our engineers also focus on developing and incorporating new techniques, methodologies and processes for testing and manufacturing our products.

 

Our engineers closely engage with our customers and their engineering teams at early stages in their systems development and new product definition. This collaboration provides us with valuable insight into the customer’s system architecture, power budget, performance requirements, operating environment (such as air flow and operating temperature) and any mechanical constraints. Our engineers use this information to provide guidance and solutions to implement optimum memory subsystems. This close collaboration has also allowed us to develop a significant level of systems expertise. An important aspect of our research and development effort is to understand the challenges faced by our customers and provide cost -effective solutions that satisfy their requirements by utilizing our industry knowledge, proprietary technologies and technical expertise.

 

In our product development, we use advanced design tools that allow us to model behavior of a signal trace on our memory modules as well as airflow and thermal profiles of all components in the system. These design tools enable real-time simulation for signal integrity and behavioral modeling of our designs using the same models as our component suppliers. These simulation tools help us reduce or eliminate electronic signal reflections, clock skews, signal jitter and noise, which can reduce system performance and reliability, which allows us to develop optimum solutions for our customers.

 

In our product development efforts, we have designed and developed custom semiconductor logic devices. These logic devices are integrated into our next-generation memory subsystems in order to improve their performance. Logic devices in our NVvault and EXPRESSvault hybrid memory products enable DRAM and NAND flash memory to be efficiently combined for the purposes of accelerating system performance and providing mission -critical back-up. The development of these semiconductor devices is an important part of our overall product development efforts.

 

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We have invested significant resources in our product development efforts. Our customers typically do not separately compensate us for design and engineering work involved in developing application‑specific products for them. Our total expenditures for research and development were approximately $6.3 million and $6.0 million for 2016 and 2015, respectively.

 

Intellectual Property Rights

 

Our high-performance memory subsystems are developed in part using our proprietary technologies, and we believe that the strength of our intellectual property rights will be important to the success of our business. We utilize patent and trade secret protection, confidentiality agreements with customers and partners, disclosure and invention assignment agreements with employees and consultants and other contractual provisions to protect our intellectual property and other proprietary information. As of December 31, 2016, we had 66 U.S. and foreign patents issued and 42 U.S. and foreign patent applications pending. Assuming that they are properly maintained, our patents will expire at various dates between 2022 and 2035. Our issued patents and patent applications relate to the use of custom logic in high-performance memory subsystems, PCB design, layout and packaging techniques. Our patents cover different aspects of our technology innovations and various claim scopes and, as such, we believe that our business is not materially dependent upon any one claim in any of our existing patents or pending patent applications.

 

Employees

 

As of December 31, 2016, we had approximately 95 employees (including 78 full-time employees and 17 temporary employees). Of these employees, 38 were located in the United States and 40 were located in the PRC and the Republic of Korea. We had 52 employees in operations, 25 employees in research and development, 11 employees in sales and marketing, and 7 employees engaged in other administrative functions. In addition to our employees, a significant portion of our workforce consists of contract personnel. We are not party to any collective bargaining agreements with any of our employees. We have never experienced a work stoppage, and we believe our employee relations are good.

 

Compliance with Environmental and Other Laws

 

We are subject to various and frequently changing U.S. federal, state and local and foreign laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment, including laws governing the discharge of pollutants into the air and water, the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes and the clean-up of contaminated sites. In particular, some of our manufacturing processes may require us to handle and dispose of hazardous materials from time to time. For example, in the past our manufacturing operations have used lead-based solder in the assembly of our products. Today, we use lead-free soldering technologies in our manufacturing processes, as this is required for products entering the European Union. We could incur substantial costs, including clean-up costs, civil or criminal fines or sanctions and third-party claims for property damage or personal injury, as a result of violations of or noncompliance with these and other environmental laws and regulations. Although we have not incurred significant costs to date to comply with these laws and regulations, new laws or changes to current laws and regulations to make them more stringent could require us to incur significant costs to remain in compliance.

 

We are also subject to a variety of laws and regulations relating to other matters, including workplace health and safety, labor and employment, foreign business practices, public reporting and taxation, among others. It is difficult and costly to manage the requirements of every authority having jurisdiction over our various activities and to comply with their varying standards. Any changes to existing regulations or adoption of new regulations may result in significant additional expense to us and our customers. Further, our failure to comply with any applicable laws and regulations may result in a variety of administrative, civil and criminal enforcement measures, including monetary penalties or imposition of sanctions or other corrective requirements.

 

General Information

 

We were incorporated in Delaware in June 2000 and commenced operations in September 2000.  Our principal executive offices are located at 175 Technology Drive, Suite 150, Irvine, California 92618 and our telephone number at

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that address is (949) 435-0025. We maintain a website at www.netlist.com (this reference to our website is an inactive textual reference only and is not intended to incorporate our website into this report). We file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and make available, free of charge, on or through our website, our annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, proxy and information statements and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Our website also contains copies of our corporate governance policy, code of business conduct and ethics, insider trading policy and whistleblower policy, as well as copies of the charters for our audit committee, compensation committee and nominating and corporate governance committee.

 

Item 1A.  Risk Factors

 

Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. Before making any investment decision with respect to our securities, you should carefully consider each of the following risk factors as well as the other information in this report.  Each of these risk factors, either alone or taken together, could adversely affect our business, operating results, financial condition, ability to access capital resources and future growth prospects, as well as adversely affect the value of an investment in our common stock. As a result, you could lose some or all of any investment you have made or may make in our common stock. In assessing these risks, you should also refer to the other information contained or incorporated by reference in this report, including our consolidated financial statements and related notes.   The risks described below are not the only ones we face. Additional risks of which we are not presently aware or that we currently believe are immaterial may also impair our business operations and financial position.  

 

Risks Related to Our Business  

   

We have historically incurred losses and may continue to incur losses.  

   

Since the inception of our business in 2000, we have only experienced one fiscal year (2006) with profitable results. In order to regain profitability, or to achieve and sustain positive cash flows from operations, we must reduce operating expenses and/or increase our revenues and gross margins. Although we have in the past engaged in a series of cost reduction actions, such expense reductions alone may not make us profitable or allow us to sustain profitability if it is achieved and eliminating or reducing strategic initiatives could limit our opportunities and prospects. Our ability to achieve profitability will depend on increased revenue growth from, among other things, monetization of our intellectual property, increased demand for our memory subsystems and other product offerings and our ability to expand into new and emerging markets. We may not be successful in any of these pursuits and we may never achieve profitability or sustain profitability if achieved.

 

We may not have sufficient working capital to fund our planned operations and, as a result, we may need to raise additional capital in the future, which may not be available when needed, on acceptable terms or at all.  

We believe that, taking into account our planned activities, we have sufficient cash resources to satisfy our capital needs for at least the next 12 months. However, our estimates of our operating revenues and expenses and working capital requirements could be incorrect, and we may use our cash resources faster than we anticipate. Further, some or all of our ongoing or planned investments may not be successful and could result in further losses.

Our capital requirements will depend on many factors, including, among others:

·

the  acceptance of, and demand for, our products;

 

·

our success, and that of our strategic partners, in developing and selling products derived from our technology;

 

·

the extent and timing of any investments in developing, marketing and launching new or enhanced products or technologies;

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·

the costs of developing, improving and maintaining our internal design, testing and manufacturing processes;

 

·

the costs associated with defending and enforcing our intellectual property rights;

 

·

our results of operations, including our levels of net product sales and any other revenues we may receive, including NRE, license, royalty or other fees;

 

·

the amount and timing of vendor payments and the collection of receivables, among other factors affecting our working capital;

 

·

our receipt of cash proceeds from the exercise of outstanding stock options or warrants to acquire our common stock;

 

·

the nature and timing of acquisitions and other strategic transactions in which we participate, if any; and

 

·

the costs associated with the continued operation, and any future growth, of our business.

We expect to rely in the near term on funds raised pursuant to recent public and private placement offerings of debt and equity securities, such as our November 2015 issuance of convertible debt to Samsung and our September 2016 public offering of common stock. However, until we can generate sufficient revenues to finance our cash requirements from our operations, which we may never do, we may need to increase our liquidity and capital resources by one or more measures, which may include, among others, reducing operating expenses, restructuring our balance sheet by negotiating with creditors and vendors, entering into strategic partnerships or alliances, raising additional financing through the issuance of debt, equity, or convertible securities or pursuing alternative sources of capital, such as through asset or technology sales or licenses. We may not be able to obtain capital when needed, on terms acceptable to us or at all.

Inadequate working capital would have a material adverse effect on our business and operations and could cause us to fail to execute our business plan, fail to take advantage of future opportunities or fail to respond to competitive pressures or customer requirements. A lack of sufficient funding may also require us to significantly modify our business model and/or reduce or cease our operations, which could include implementing cost-cutting measures or delaying, scaling back or eliminating some or all of our ongoing and planned investments in corporate infrastructure, research and development projects, business development initiatives, and sales and marketing activities, among other activities. Modification of our business model and operations could result in an impairment of assets, the effects of which cannot be determined. Furthermore, if we continue to issue equity or convertible debt securities to raise additional funds, our existing stockholders may experience significant dilution, and the new equity or debt securities may have rights, preferences and privileges that are superior to those of our existing stockholders. If we incur additional debt, it may increase our leverage relative to our earnings or to our equity capitalization or have other material consequences. If we pursue asset or technology sales or licenses to obtain additional capital, our operational capacity may be limited and any revenue streams or business plans that are dependent on the sold or licensed assets may be eliminated. Moreover, we may incur substantial costs in pursuing any future capital-raising transactions, including investment banking, legal and accounting fees, printing and distribution expenses and other similar costs, which would reduce the benefit of the capital received from the transaction.

We have incurred a material amount of indebtedness to fund our operations, the terms of which have required us to pledge substantially all of our assets as security. Our level of indebtedness and the terms of such indebtedness could adversely affect our operations and liquidity.  

   

We have incurred debt secured by all of our assets under our convertible note issued to an affiliate of Samsung, Samsung Venture Investment Co. (“SVIC”), and our credit facility with Silicon Valley Bank (“SVB”). Our convertible note issued to SVIC is secured by a first priority security interest in our patent portfolio and a second priority security interest in substantially all of our other assets. Our credit facility with SVB is secured by a first priority security interest

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in all of our assets other than our patent portfolio, to which SVB has a second priority security interest. The SVIC and SVB debt instruments contain customary representations, warranties and indemnification provisions, as well as affirmative and negative covenants that, among other things, restrict our ability to:

   

·

incur additional indebtedness or guarantees;

 

 

·

incur liens;

 

 

·

make investments, loans and acquisitions;

 

 

·

consolidate or merge;

 

 

·

sell or exclusively license assets, including capital stock of subsidiaries;

 

 

·

alter our business;

 

·

change any provision of our organizational documents;

 

·

engage in transactions with affiliates; and

 

 

·

pay dividends or make distributions.

 

The SVIC and SVB debt instruments also include events of default, including, among other things, payment defaults, any breach by us of representations, warranties or covenants, certain bankruptcy events and certain material adverse changes. If an event of default were to occur under either debt instrument and we were unable to obtain a waiver for the default, the lenders could, among other remedies, accelerate our obligations under the debt instruments and exercise their rights to foreclose on their security interests, which would cause substantial harm to our business and prospects.

 

Additionally, incurrence and maintenance of this or other debt could have material adverse consequences on our business and financial condition, such as:

   

 

 

 

requiring us to dedicate a portion of our cash flows from operations and other capital resources to debt service, thereby reducing our ability to fund working capital, capital expenditures and other cash requirements;

   

 

 

 

increasing our vulnerability to adverse economic and industry conditions;

   

 

 

 

limiting our flexibility in planning for or reacting to changes and opportunities in our business and industry, which may place us at a competitive disadvantage; and

   

 

 

 

limiting our ability to incur additional debt when needed, on acceptable terms or at all.

   

  We are involved in and expect to continue to be involved in costly legal and administrative proceedings to enforce or protect our intellectual property rights and to defend against claims that we infringe the intellectual property rights of others.  

As is common in the semiconductor industry, we have experienced substantial litigation regarding patent and other intellectual property rights. We are currently involved in litigation and USPTO proceedings based on alleged third-party infringement of our patents, and lawsuits claiming that we are infringing others’ intellectual property rights also have been and may in the future be brought against us.

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The process of obtaining and protecting patents is inherently uncertain. In addition to the patent issuance process established by law and the procedures of the USPTO, we must comply with JEDEC administrative procedures to protect our intellectual property within its industry standard-setting process. These procedures evolve over time, are subject to variability in their application and may be inconsistent with each other. Failure to comply with the USPTO’s or JEDEC’s administrative procedures could jeopardize our ability to claim that our patents have been infringed.

Our business strategy includes litigating claims against others, such as our competitors, customers and former employees, to enforce our intellectual property, contractual and commercial rights including, in particular, our patent portfolio and our trade secrets, as well as to challenge the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others. This or other similar proceedings could also subject us to counterclaims or countersuits against us, or the parties we sue could seek to invalidate our patents or other intellectual property rights through reexamination or similar processes at the USPTO or similar bodies. Moreover, any legal disputes with customers could cause them to cease buying or using our products or delay their purchase of our products and could substantially damage our relationship with them.

Making use of new technologies and entering new markets increases the likelihood that others might allege that our products infringe on their intellectual property rights. The likelihood of this type of lawsuit may also be increased due to the limited pool of experienced technical personnel that we can draw upon to meet our hiring needs. As a result, a number of our existing employees have worked for our existing or potential competitors at some point during their careers, and we anticipate that a number of our future employees will have similar work histories. Moreover, lawsuits of this type may be brought, even if there is no merit to the claim, as a strategy to prevent us from hiring qualified candidates, drain our financial resources and divert management’s attention away from our business.

Litigation is inherently uncertain. An adverse outcome in existing or any future litigation could force us to, among other things:

·

relinquish patents or other protections of our technologies if they are invalidated, which would enable our competitors and others to freely use this technology;

·

compete with products that rely upon technologies and other intellectual property rights that we have developed and that we believe we have rights to protect from third-party use;

 

·

accept terms of an arrangement to license our technologies to a third party that are not as favorable as we might expect;

 

·

cease manufacturing and/or selling products or using certain processes that are claimed to be infringing a third party’s intellectual property;

 

·

pay damages (which in some instances may be three times actual damages), including royalties on past or future sales, if we are found to infringe a third party’s intellectual property;

 

·

seek a license from a third -party intellectual property owner to use its technology in our products, which may not be available on reasonable terms or at all; or

 

·

redesign any products that are claimed to be infringing a third party’s intellectual property, which may not be possible to do in a timely manner, without incurring significant costs or at all.

 

Moreover, any litigation, regardless of its outcome, would involve a significant dedication of resources, including time and costs, would divert management’s time and attention and could negatively impact our results of operations. As a result, any current or future infringement claims by or against third parties could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

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We are involved in and expect to continue to be involved in legal proceedings at the ITC and related enforcement actions to stop allegedly infringing SK hynix RDIMM and LRDIMM products from entering the United States and in district court to seek damages for patent infringement.  

On September 1, 2016, we took action to protect and defend our innovations by filing legal proceedings for patent infringement against SK hynix and two of its subsidiaries in the ITC and in district court. We are seeking an exclusion order in the ITC that directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop allegedly infringing SK hynix RDIMM and LRDIMM products from entering the United States. ITC investigations typically proceed on an expedited basis. The evidentiary hearing in the ITC investigation will occur in May 2017, with a final initial determination expected to be issued by the ITC in October 2017, but there can be no guarantee that our proceedings will follow such a timeline.

Intellectual property litigation is expensive and time‑consuming, regardless of the merits of any claim, and could divert management’s attention from operating our business. In addition, lawsuits in the ITC and in district courts are subject to inherent uncertainties due to the complexity of the technical issues involved, and we may not be successful in our actions. Moreover, if we are countersued by SK hynix and lose the suit, we could be required to pay substantial damages or lose some of our intellectual property protections. Furthermore, we may not be able to reach a settlement with SK hynix to license our patent portfolio, and even if we are able to reach a settlement, the terms of the arrangement may not be as favorable as we anticipated. Any of the foregoing could cause us to incur significant costs, decrease the perceived value of our intellectual property and materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

We may be unsuccessful in monetizing our intellectual property portfolio.  

 

We have dedicated substantial resources to the development and protection of technology innovations essential to our business, and we expect these activities to continue for the foreseeable future. We also intend to aggressively pursue monetization avenues for our intellectual property portfolio, potentially including licensing, royalty or other revenue-producing arrangements. However, our revenues are currently generated by our product sales and we may never be successful in generating a revenue stream from our intellectual property, in which case our investments of time, capital and other resources into our intellectual property portfolio may not provide adequate, or any, returns.

 

Although we may pursue agreements with third parties to commercially license certain of our products or technologies, we may never successfully enter into any such agreement. Further, the terms of any such agreements that we may reach with third-party licensees are uncertain and may not provide sufficient royalty or other licensing revenues to us to justify our costs of developing and maintaining the licensed intellectual property or may otherwise include terms that are not favorable to us. Additionally, the pursuit of licensing arrangements would require by its nature that we relinquish certain of our rights to our technologies and intellectual property that we license to third parties, which could limit our ability to base our own products on such technologies or could reduce the economic value that we receive from such technologies and intellectual property. Additionally, the establishment of arrangements to monetize our intellectual property may be more difficult or costly than expected, may require additional personnel and investments and may be a significant distraction for management. In connection with any monetization avenues we may develop, our licenses and royalty revenue may be uncertain from period to period and we may be unable to attract sufficient licensing customers, which would materially and adversely affect our results of operations.

 

Our ability to establish licensing, royalty or similar revenues, and maintain or increase any such revenues we are able to establish, depends on a variety of factors, including the novelty, utility, performance, quality, breadth, depth and overall perceived value of our intellectual property portfolio, all as compared to that of our competitors, as well as our sales and marketing capabilities. If secured, licensing or royalty revenues may also be negatively affected by factors within and outside our control, including reductions in our customers’ sales prices, sales volumes and the terms of the license arrangements. If we are not successful in monetizing our intellectual property portfolio, we may never recoup the costs associated with developing, maintaining, defending and enforcing this portfolio and our financial condition and prospects would be harmed.

 

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Our revenues and results of operations have been substantially dependent on single products, including NVvault in historical periods and Samsung products in recent periods. Revenue lost from any decline in sales of these products, such as the recent decline in NVvault product sales, may be challenging to replace and could significantly harm our performance.  

 

Historically, we have been substantially dependent on sales of single products or product categories. For instance, for the fiscal year ended January 2, 2016, our NVvault NVDIMM used in cache-protection and data-logging applications, including our NVvault battery‑free, the flash‑based cache system, accounted for approximately 20% of our net product sales, and for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, our resales of certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model accounted for approximately 21% of our net product sales. Demand for these products could decline at any time for a number of reasons, including, among others, product obsolescence, introduction of more advanced or otherwise superior competing products by our competitors, the ability to obtain these products or substitute products from alternate sources, or the other risk factors described in this Item 1A. Further, we have no long-term purchase agreements or other commitments with respect to sales of any of our products. As a result, any decline in demand for these products from us would result in our reduced sales of these products, which could materially adversely impact our revenues and results.

 

For example, we have experienced a sharp decline in NVvault sales in recent years, due in large part to our loss of our former most significant NVvault customer, Dell beginning in 2012. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, 0.4% of our net product sales were from sales of NVvault products, down from 20% during the prior year, and we recognized no NVvault sales to Dell in the fiscal years ended December 31, 2016 or January 2, 2016 and we expect no future demand from Dell for these products. In order to leverage our NVvault technology and secure one or more new key customers, we continue to pursue additional qualifications of NVvault with other OEMs and to target new customer applications, such as online transaction processing, virtualization, Big Data analytics, high speed transaction processing, high-performance database applications and in‑memory database applications. We also introduced EXPRESSvault in March 2011 and the next-generation of EXPRESSvault (EV3) in July 2015, and we continue to pursue qualification of the next-generation DDR3 NVvault and DDR4 NVvault with customers. Our future operating results will depend on our ability to commercialize these NVvault product extensions, as well as our other products such as HybriDIMM and other high‑density and high-performance solutions. HybriDIMM is still under development and may require additional investment and the services and attention of key employees who have competing demands on their available time. Although we believe that our JDLA with Samsung may advance the development of this product, our partnership with Samsung and any other steps we take to further the development of this or any other products in development could fail. If we are not successful in expanding our qualifications or marketing any new or enhanced products, we will be unable to secure revenues sufficient to replace lost NVvault revenues and our results of operations and prospects could be materially harmed.

 

In addition, significant sales of certain products could impact our costs and our margins. For instance, our resales of Samsung products, which contributed a significant portion of our net product sales in 2016, carry lower gross margin than sales of our own products. As a result, any increase in sales of these products in future periods could reduce our overall gross profit margin.

 

We are subject to risks relating to our focus on developing our HybriDIMM and NVvault products and a lack of market diversification.  

 

We have historically derived a substantial portion of our revenues from sales of our high‑performance modular memory subsystems to OEMs in the server, high-performance computing and communications markets, as well as from sales products to storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. We expect these memory subsystems to continue to account for a portion of our revenues in the near term. We believe that market acceptance of these products or derivative products that incorporate our core memory subsystem technology is critical to our success.

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We have invested significant research and development time and costs into the design of ASIC and hybrid devices, including our NVvault family of products and most recently our next-generation HybriDIMM memory subsystem. These products are subject to increased risks as compared to our legacy products. For example:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we are dependent on a limited number of suppliers for the DRAM and ASIC devices that are essential to the functionality of these products, and in the past we have experienced supply chain disruptions and shortages of DRAM and NAND flash required to create our NVvault family of products as a result of issues that are specific to our suppliers or the industry as a whole;

 

 

 

our products are generally subject to a product approval and qualification process with customers before purchases are made and we have experienced a longer qualification cycle than anticipated with some of these products, including our HyperCloud memory subsystems;

 

 

 

the NVvault products or other new products such as HybriDIMM may contain currently undiscovered flaws, the correction of which could result in increased costs and time to market; and

 

 

 

we are required to demonstrate the quality and reliability of our products to and qualify them with our customers, which requires a significant investment of time and resources prior to the receipt of any revenues from these customers.

These and other risks attendant to the production of our memory subsystem products could impair our ability to obtain customer or market acceptance of these products or obtain such acceptance in a timely manner, which would reduce our achievable revenues from these products and limit our ability to recoup our investments in the products.

Additionally, if the demand for servers deteriorates or if the demand for our products to be incorporated in servers declines, our operating results would be adversely affected, and we would be forced to diversify our product portfolio and our target markets. We may not be able to achieve this diversification, and our inability to do so may adversely affect our business, operating performance and prospects.

Sales to a small number of customers represent a significant portion of our net product sales and the loss of, or a significant reduction in sales to, any one of these customers could materially harm our business.  

 

Sales to small number of customers represent a substantial portion of our net product sales. Approximately 16% of our net product sales in the year ended December 31, 2016 were to one customer, which was a new customer in 2016. Approximately 27% and 10% of our net product sales in the year ended January 2, 2016 were to two customers, both of which purchased few products and contributed only a small portion of our revenues in 2016. The composition of major customers and their respective contributions to our net product sales have varied and will likely continue to vary from period to period as our existing and prospective customers progress through the life cycle of the products they produce and sell.

 

We do not have long-term agreements with any of our customers and, as result, any or all of them could decide at any time to discontinue, decrease or delay their purchase of our products. In addition, the prices that these customers pay for our products could change at any time. Further, we may not be able to sell some products developed for one customer to a different customer because our products are often customized to address specific customer requirements, and even if we are able to sell these products to another customer, our margin on these products may be reduced. Additionally, although customers are generally allowed only limited rights of return after purchasing our products, we may determine that it is in our best interest to accept returns from certain large or key customers even if we are not contractually obligated to accept them in order to maintain good relations with these customers. Any returns beyond our expectations could negatively impact our operating results. Moreover, because a few customers account for a substantial portion of our net product sales, the failure of any one of these customers to pay on a timely basis would negatively impact our cash flows. As a result, the loss of any of our customers or a reduction in sales to or difficulties collecting payments from any of them could significantly reduce our net product sales and adversely affect our operating results.

 

Our ability to maintain or increase our net product sales to our key customers depends on a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. These factors include our customers’ continued sales of servers and other computing systems that incorporate our memory subsystems and our customers’ continued incorporation of our products

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into their systems. Because of these and other factors, sales to these customers may not continue and the amount of such sales may not reach or exceed historical levels in any future period.

 

Our customers require that our products undergo a lengthy and expensive qualification process without any assurance of sales.  

 

Our prospective customers generally test and evaluate our memory subsystems before purchasing our products and integrating them into their systems. This extensive qualification process involves rigorous reliability testing and evaluation of our products, which may continue for nine months or longer and is often subject to delays. In addition to qualification of specific products, some of our customers may also require us to undergo a technology qualification if our product designs incorporate innovative technologies that the customer has not previously encountered. Such technology qualifications often take substantially longer than product qualifications and can take over a year to complete. Qualification by a prospective customer does not ensure any sales to that prospective customer, in which case we would receive no or limited revenues in spite of our investment of time and other resources in this qualification process, which could adversely affect our operating results.

 

Even after successful qualification and sales of our products to a customer, because the qualification process is both product-specific and platform-specific, our existing customers sometimes require us to re-qualify our products or to qualify our new products for use in new platforms or applications. For example, as our OEM customers transition from prior generation architectures to current generation architectures, we must design and qualify new products for use by these customers. In the past, this design and qualification process has taken up to nine months to complete, during which time our net product sales to these customers declined significantly. Additionally, after our products are qualified with existing or new customers, the customer may take several months to begin purchasing the product or may decide not to purchase the product at all.

 

Likewise, changes in our products, our manufacturing facilities, our production processes or our component suppliers may require a new qualification process. For example, when our memory and NAND flash component vendors discontinue production of components, it may be necessary for us to design and qualify new products for our customers. As a result, some customers may require us, or we may decide, to purchase an estimated quantity of discontinued memory components necessary to ensure a steady supply of existing products until products with new components can be qualified. Purchases of this nature may affect our liquidity. Additionally, our estimation of quantities required during the transition may be incorrect, which could adversely impact our results of operations through lost revenue opportunities or charges related to excess and obsolete inventory.

 

We must devote substantial resources, including design, engineering, sales, marketing and management efforts, to qualify our products with prospective customers in anticipation of sales. Significant delays or other difficulties in the qualification process could result in an inability to keep up with rapid technology change or new, competitive products. If we delay or do not succeed in qualifying a product with an existing or prospective customer, we would not be able to sell that product to that customer, which may result in our holding excess and obsolete inventory and could reduce our net product sales and customer base, any of which could materially harm our operating results and business.

 

We are subject to risks of disruption in the supply of the components of our products.  

   

Our ability to fulfill customer orders or produce qualification samples is dependent on a sufficient supply of FPGAs, ASICs, DRAM ICs and NAND flash, which are essential components of our memory subsystems. In addition, we resell some of the components that we purchase from Samsung under the terms of our JDLA to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model, including small to medium storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. We have no long‑term supply contracts for any of these components. Further, there are a relatively small number of suppliers of these components and we typically purchase from only a subset of these suppliers. As a result, our inventory purchases have historically been concentrated in a small number of suppliers, including Samsung Semiconductor, Inc., from which we obtained a large portion of our total inventory purchases in 2016. We also use consumables and other components, including PCBs, to manufacture our memory subsystems, which we sometimes procure from single or limited sources to take advantage of volume pricing discounts.

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From time to time, shortages in DRAM ICs and NAND flash have required some suppliers to limit the supply of these components. In the past, we have experienced supply chain disruptions and shortages of DRAM and NAND flash required to create our HyperCloud, NVvault and Planar X VLP products, and we are continually working to secure adequate supplies of the components necessary to fill customers’ orders for our products in a timely manner. If we are unable to obtain a sufficient supply of DRAM ICs, NAND flash or other essential components to avoid interruptions in the delivery of our products as required by our customers or the delivery of these components to customers to whom we resell them directly, these customers may reduce future orders for our products or not purchase our products at all, which would cause our net product sales to decline and harm our operating results. In addition, our reputation could be harmed due to failures to meet our customers’ demands and, even assuming we are successful in resolving supply chain disruptions, we may not be able to replace any lost business and we may lose market share to our competitors. Further, if our suppliers are unable to produce qualification samples on a timely basis or at all, we could experience delays in the qualification process with existing or prospective customers, which could have a significant impact on our ability to sell our products. Moreover, if we are not able to obtain these components in the amounts needed on a timely basis and at commercially reasonable prices, we may not be able to develop or introduce new products or we may be forced to cease our resale activities for the components we sell to customers directly.

Our dependence on a small number of suppliers and the lack of any guaranteed sources for the essential components of our products expose us to several risks, including the inability to obtain an adequate supply of these essential components, increases in their costs, delivery delays and poor quality. Additionally, our customers qualify certain of the components provided by our suppliers for use in their systems. If one of our suppliers experiences quality control or other problems, it may be disqualified by one or more of our customers. This would disrupt our supplies of these components, and would also reduce the number of suppliers available to us and may require that we qualify a new supplier, which we may not be able to do.

 

Historical declines in customer demand and our revenues have caused us to reduce our purchases of DRAM ICs and NAND flash. Such declines or other fluctuations could continue in the future. If we fail to maintain sufficient purchase levels with some suppliers, our ability to obtain supplies of raw materials may be impaired due to the practice of some suppliers to allocate their products to customers with the highest regular demand.

   

Frequent technology changes and the introduction of next-generation versions of these components may also result in the obsolescence of our inventory on-hand, which could involve significant time and costs to replace, reduce our net product sales and gross margin and adversely affect our operating performance and financial condition.

 

  If we are unable to timely and cost-effectively develop new or enhanced products that meet our customers’ requirements and achieve market acceptance or technologies that we can monetize, our revenues and prospectus could be materially harmed.  

 

Our industry is characterized by rapid technological change, evolving industry standards and rapid product obsolescence. As a result, continuous development of new technology, processes and product innovations is necessary in order to be successful. We believe that the continued and timely development of new products and improvement of existing products are critical to our business and prospects for growth.

 

In order to develop and introduce new or enhanced products and technologies, we need to:

   

 

 

 

retain and continue to attract new engineers with expertise in high-performance modular memory subsystems and our key technology competencies;

 

 

 

 

identify and adjust to the changing requirements of our existing and potential future customers;

   

 

 

 

identify and adapt to emerging technological trends and evolving industry standards in our markets;

   

 

 

 

continue to develop and enhance our design tools, manufacturing processes and other technologies that allow us to produce attractive and competitive products;

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design and introduce cost-effective, innovative and performance- enhancing features that differentiate our products and technologies from those of our competitors;

   

 

 

 

secure licenses to enable us to use any technologies, processes or other rights essential to the manufacture or use of any new products we may design, which licenses may not be available when needed, on acceptable terms or at all;

 

 

 

 

maintain or develop new relationships with suppliers of components required for any new or enhanced products and technologies;

   

 

 

 

qualify any new or enhanced products for use in our customers’ products; and

   

 

 

 

develop and maintain effective marketing strategies.

   

We may not be successful at any of these activities. As a result, we may not be able to successfully develop new or enhanced products or we may experience delays in this process. Failures or delays in product development and introduction could result in the loss of, or delays in generating, net products sales or other revenues and the loss of key customer relationships. Even if we develop new or enhanced products or technologies, they may not meet our customers’ requirements or gain market acceptance, as our product development efforts are inherently risky due to the challenges of foreseeing changes or developments in technology or anticipating the adoption of new standards. Moreover, we have invested significant resources in our product development efforts, which would be lost if we fail to develop successful products. If any if these risks were to occur, our net product sales, prospects and reputation could be materially adversely affected.

 

We face intense competition in our industry, and we may not be able to compete successfully in our target markets.  

   

Our products are primarily targeted to OEMs in the server, high-performance computing and communications markets, as well as to storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. These markets are intensely competitive, as numerous companies vie for business opportunities at a limited number of large OEMs and other customers. We face competition from DRAM suppliers, memory module providers and logic suppliers for many of our products, including EXPRESSvault, NVvault and HybriDIMM. Additionally, if and to the extent we enter new markets or pursue licensing arrangements to monetize our technologies and intellectual property portfolio, we may face competition from a large number of competitors that produce solutions utilizing similar or competing technologies.

   

Some of our customers and suppliers may have proprietary products or technologies that are competitive with our products, or could develop internal solutions or enter into strategic relationships with, or acquire, other high-density memory module providers. Any of these actions could reduce our customers’ demand for our products. Some of our significant suppliers of memory integrated circuits may be able to manufacture competitive products at lower costs by leveraging internal efficiencies, or could choose to reduce our supply of memory integrated circuits, which could adversely affect our ability to manufacture our memory subsystems on a timely basis, if at all.

   

Certain of our competitors have substantially greater financial, technical, marketing, distribution and other resources, broader product lines, lower cost structures, greater brand recognition and longer standing relationships with customers and suppliers. Some of our competitors may also have a greater ability to influence industry standards than we do. Additionally, some of our competitors may have more extensive or more established patent portfolios than we do. We may not be able to compete effectively against any of these organizations.

   

Our ability to compete in our current target markets and future markets will depend in large part on our ability to successfully develop, introduce and sell new and enhanced products or technologies on a timely and cost-effective basis and to respond to changing market requirements. We expect our competitors to continue to improve the performance of their current products and potentially reduce their prices. In addition, our competitors may develop future generations and enhancements of competitive products or new or enhanced technologies that may offer greater

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performance and improved pricing or render our technologies obsolete. If we are unable to match or exceed the improvements made by our competitors, our market position and prospects could deteriorate and our net product sales could decline.

 

A limited number of relatively large potential customers dominate the markets for our products.  

 

Our target markets are characterized by a limited number of large companies. Consolidation in one or more of our target markets may further increase this industry concentration. As a result, we anticipate that sales of our products will continue to be concentrated among a small number of large customers in the foreseeable future. We believe that our financial results will depend in significant part on our success in establishing and maintaining relationships with and effecting substantial sales to these potential customers. Even if we establish and successfully maintain these relationships, our financial results will be largely dependent on these customers’ sales and business results.

 

If a standardized memory solution that addresses the demands of our customers is developed, our net product sales and market share may decline.  

 

Many of our memory subsystems are specifically designed for our OEM customers’ high-performance systems. In a drive to reduce costs and assure supply of their memory module demand, our OEM customers may endeavor to design JEDEC standard DRAM modules into their new products. Although we also manufacture JEDEC modules, this trend could reduce the demand for our higher-priced customized memory solutions, which would have a negative impact on our operating results. In addition, the adoption of a JEDEC standard module instead of a previously custom module might allow new competitors to participate in a share of our customers’ memory module business that previously belonged to us.

 

If our OEM customers were to adopt JEDEC standard modules, our future business may be limited to identifying the next generation of high-performance memory demands of OEM customers and developing solutions that address these demands. Until fully implemented, any next generation of products may constitute a significantly smaller market, which could reduce our revenues and harm our competitive position.

 

If we fail to protect our proprietary rights, our customers or our competitors might gain access to our proprietary designs, processes and technologies, which could adversely affect our operating results.  

   

We rely on a combination of patent protection, trade secret laws and restrictions on disclosure to protect our intellectual property rights. We have submitted a number of patent applications regarding our proprietary processes and technology. It is not certain when or if any of the claims in our patent applications will be allowed. As of December 31, 2016, we had 66 U.S. and foreign patents issued and 42 pending patent applications worldwide. Although we intend to continue filing patent applications with respect to the new processes and technologies that we develop, patent protection may not be available for some of these processes or technologies, in which case they may remain unprotected from use by third parties, including our competitors.

   

Our efforts to protect our intellectual property rights may not:

   

 

 

 

prevent challenges to or the invalidation or circumvention of our intellectual property rights;

   

 

 

 

keep our competitors or other third parties from independently developing similar products or technologies, duplicating, reverse engineering or otherwise using our products or technologies without our authorization or designing around any patents that may be issued to us;

   

 

 

 

prevent disputes with third parties regarding ownership of our intellectual property rights;

   

 

 

 

prevent disclosure of our trade secrets and know‑how to third parties or into the public domain;

   

 

 

 

result in valid patents, including international patents, from any of our pending or future applications; or

   

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otherwise adequately protect our intellectual property rights.

   

Monitoring for any unauthorized use of our technologies is costly, time-consuming and difficult. This is particularly true in foreign countries, such as the PRC, where we have established a manufacturing facility and where the laws may not protect our proprietary rights to the same extent as applicable U.S. laws.

   

If some or all of the claims in our patent applications are not allowed or if any of our intellectual property protections are limited in scope by the USPTO, a court or applicable foreign authorities or are circumvented by third parties, we could face increased competition for our products and be unable to execute on our strategy of monetizing our intellectual property. Any of these outcomes could significantly harm our business, operating results and prospects.

   

Our operating results may be adversely impacted by worldwide economic and political uncertainties and specific conditions in the markets we address, including the cyclical nature of and volatility in the memory market and semiconductor industry.  

   

Adverse changes in domestic and global economic and political conditions have made it extremely difficult for our customers, our vendors and us to accurately forecast and plan future business activities, and these conditions have caused and could continue to cause U.S. and foreign businesses to slow or decrease spending on our products and services. In addition, sales of our products are dependent upon demand by OEMs in the server, high-performance computing and communications markets, as well as by storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. These markets are characterized by wide fluctuations in product supply and demand. Additionally, these markets have been cyclical and have experienced significant downturns, often connected with or in anticipation of maturing product cycles, reductions in technology spending and declines in general economic conditions. During these downturns, product demand diminishes, production capacity exceeds demand, inventory levels increase and average selling prices decline, all of which would materially adversely impact our business and operating results. Additionally, such a downturn could decrease the perceived value of our intellectual property portfolio and result in reduced ability to pursue our goal of monetizing this portfolio.

   

We may experience substantial period-to-period fluctuations in our operating results due to factors affecting the markets in which we operate. A decline or significant shortfall in demand in any of these markets could have a material adverse effect on demand for our products and on our net product sales. In addition, because many of our costs and operating expenses are relatively fixed, if we are unable to control our expenses adequately in response to reduced product sales, our gross margins, operating income and cash flows would be negatively impacted.

   

During challenging economic times our customers may face issues gaining timely access to sufficient credit, which could impair their ability to make timely payments to us. This may impair our liquidity and cash flows and require us to increase our allowance for doubtful accounts. Furthermore, our vendors may face similar issues gaining access to credit, which may limit their ability to supply components or provide trade credit to us. We cannot predict the timing, strength or duration of any economic slowdown or subsequent economic recovery, either generally or in our markets. If the economy or markets in which we operate experience such a slowdown, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Additionally, the combination of our lengthy sales cycle coupled with any challenging macroeconomic conditions could compound the negative impact of any such downturn on the results of our operations.

   

Our lack of a significant backlog of unfilled orders and the difficulty inherent in estimating customer demand makes it difficult to forecast our short-term production requirements, and any failure to optimally calibrate our production capacity and inventory levels to meet customer demand could adversely affect our revenues, gross margins and earnings.  

   

We make significant decisions regarding the levels of business we will seek and accept, production schedules, component procurement, personnel needs and other resource requirements based on our estimates of customer demand. We do not have long-term agreements with any of our customers. Instead, sales are made primarily pursuant to standard purchase orders that we often receive no more than two weeks in advance of the desired delivery date and that may be rescheduled or cancelled on relatively short notice. The short-term nature of the commitments by many of our customers

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and the fact that our customers may cancel or defer purchase orders for any reason reduces our backlog of firm orders and our ability to accurately estimate future customer requirements for our products. This fact, combined with the quick turn-around times that apply to most orders, makes it difficult to forecast our production needs and allocate production capacity efficiently. As a result, we attempt to forecast the demand for the components needed to manufacture our products, but any such forecasts could turn out to be wrong. Further, lead times for components vary significantly and depend on various factors, such as the specific supplier and the demand and supply for a component at a given time.

   

Our production expense and component purchase levels are to a large extent fixed in the short term. As a result, we may be unable to adjust spending on a timely basis to compensate for any unexpected shortfall in customer orders. If we overestimate customer demand, we may have excess inventory of components, which may not be able to be used in other products or may become obsolete before any such use. If there is a subsequent decline in the prices of these components, the value of our inventory would fall. As a result, we may need to write-down the value of our component inventory, which may result in a significant decrease in our gross margin and financial condition. Also, to the extent that we manufacture products in anticipation of future demand that does not materialize or in the event a customer cancels or reduces outstanding orders, we could experience an unanticipated increase in our finished goods inventory. In the past, we have had to write-down inventory due to obsolescence, excess quantities and declines in market value below our costs. Any significant shortfall of customer orders in relation to our expectations could hurt our operating results, cash flows and financial condition.

   

Conversely, any rapid increases in production required by our customers could strain our resources and reduce our margins. If we underestimate customer demand, we may not have sufficient inventory of necessary components on hand to manufacture enough product to meet that demand. We also may not have sufficient manufacturing capacity at any given time to meet any demands for rapid increases in production. These shortages of inventory and capacity would lead to delays in the delivery of our products, which may force us to forego sales opportunities, reduce our net product sales and damage our customer relationships.

   

In addition, we resell certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model. This includes small to medium storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. However, there is no guarantee of sufficient demand for these products and such demand could decline, due to customers obtaining these products from alternate sources, reducing their need for these products generally or for other reasons. The lack of sales of these products may adversely impact our financial conditions and results of operations. Furthermore, sales of these products generally carry lower gross margin than sales of our own products and, as a result, any increase in sales of these products in future periods could reduce our overall gross profit margin.

Declines in our average sales prices, driven by volatile prices for essential components and other factors, may result in declines in our revenues and gross profit.  

   

Our industry is competitive and historically has been characterized by declines in average sales price, based in part on market prices for DRAM ICs, NAND flash and other essential product components, which have historically constituted a substantial portion of the total cost of our memory subsystems. Our average sales prices may decline due to several factors, including overcapacity in the worldwide supply of these components, increased manufacturing efficiencies, implementation of new manufacturing processes and expansion of manufacturing capacity by component suppliers.

   

Once our prices with a customer are negotiated, we are generally unable to revise pricing with that customer until our next regularly scheduled price adjustment. As a result, if market prices for essential components increase, we generally cannot pass the price increases on to our customers for products purchased under an existing purchase order. Consequently, we are exposed to the risks associated with the volatility of prices for these components and our cost of sales could increase and our gross margins could decrease in the event of price increases. Alternatively, if there are declines in the price of these components, we may need to reduce our selling prices for subsequent purchase orders, which may result in a decline in our net product sales.

   

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In addition, since a large percentage of our product sales are to a small number of customers that are primarily large OEMs, these customers have exerted, and we expect they will continue to exert, pressure on us to make price concessions. If not offset by increases in volume of sales or the sales of newly-developed products with higher margins, decreases in average sales prices could have a material adverse effect on our business and operating results.

   

Our manufacturing operations involve significant risks.  

   

We maintain a manufacturing facility in the PRC at which we produce most of our products. This internal manufacturing process allows us to utilize our own materials and processes, protect our intellectual property and develop the technology for manufacturing.     However, our manufacturing activities require significant resources to maintain. For instance, we must continuously review and improve our manufacturing processes in order to maintain satisfactory manufacturing yields and product performance, try to lower our costs and otherwise remain competitive. As we manufacture more complex products, the risk of encountering delays, difficulties or higher costs increases. The start-up costs associated with implementing new manufacturing technologies, methods and processes, including the purchase of new equipment and any resulting manufacturing delays and inefficiencies, could negatively impact our results of operations.

   

Additionally, we could experience a prolonged disruption, material malfunction, interruption or other loss of operations at our manufacturing facility or we may need to add manufacturing capacity to satisfy any increased demand for our products. Under these circumstances, we may be forced to rely on third parties for our manufacturing needs, which could increase our manufacturing costs, decreases our profit margin, decrease our control over manufacturing processes, limit our ability to meet customer demand and delay new product development until we could secure a relationship with a third-party manufacturer, which we may not be able to do in a timely manner, on acceptable terms or at all. If any of these risks were to occur, our operations, performance and customer relationships could be severely harmed. In addition, we may need to expand our existing manufacturing facility or establish a new facility. Any need to expand or replace our manufacturing facility would be expensive and time-consuming and could also subject us to factory audits by our customers that could themselves result in delays, unexpected costs or customer losses if we cannot meet the standards of any such audits. Further, we may not be able to replace or increase our manufacturing capacity at all. The occurrence of any of these events could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.

   

We depend on third parties to design and manufacture custom components for some of our products, which exposes us to risks.  

   

Significant customized components, such as ASICs, that are used in HyperCloud and some of our other products are designed and manufactured by third parties. The ability and willingness of third parties to enter into these engagements with us and perform in accordance with these engagements is largely outside of our control. If one or more of our design or manufacturing partners experiences a manufacturing disruption, fails to dedicate adequate resources to the production of our products, experiences financial instability or otherwise fails to perform its obligations to us in a timely manner or at satisfactory quality levels, our ability to bring products to market or deliver products to our customers, as well as our reputation, could suffer and our business and prospects could be materially harmed. In the event of any failure by our component manufacturers, we may have no readily available alternative source of supply for these components, since, in our experience, the lead time needed to establish a relationship with a new design or manufacturing partner is substantial, and the time for our OEM customers to re-qualify our product with components from a new vendor is also significant. Additionally, if we need to replace one of our component manufacturers, we may not be able to do so in a timely manner, on acceptable terms or at all. Further, we may not be able to redesign our customized components to be manufactured by the new manufacturer, in which case we could infringe on the intellectual property of our current design or manufacturing partner when we redesign the custom components. Such an occurrence could force us to stop selling certain products or expose us to lawsuits, license payments or other liabilities.

   

Our dependence on third-party manufacturers exposes us to many other risks, including, among others: reduced control over delivery schedules, quality, manufacturing yields and costs; the potential lack of adequate capacity during periods of excess demand; limited warranties on products supplied to us; and potential misappropriation of our intellectual property or the intellectual property of others. We are dependent on our manufacturing partners to

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manufacture components with acceptable quality and manufacturing yields, to deliver these components to us on a timely basis and to allocate a portion of their manufacturing capacity sufficient to meet our needs. Although our products are designed using the process design rules of the particular manufacturers, our manufacturing partners may not be able to achieve or maintain acceptable yields or deliver sufficient quantities of components on a timely basis or at an acceptable cost. Additionally, our manufacturing partners may not continue to devote adequate resources to produce our products or continue to advance the process design technologies on which the qualification and manufacturing of our products are based. Further, we could be exposed to liability if our component manufacturers are found to infringe the intellectual property rights of others and we are held responsible for any such infringement. Any of these risks could limit our ability to meet customer demand and materially adversely affect our business and operating results.

   

If our products do not meet quality standards or are defective or used in defective systems, we may be subject to quality holds, warranty claims, recalls or liability claims.  

   

Our customers require our products to meet strict quality standards. If our products do not meet these standards, our customers may discontinue purchases from us until we are able to resolve the quality issues that are causing us to not meet the standards, which we may not be able to do. These “quality holds” could be costly and time-consuming to resolve and could have a significant adverse impact on our revenues and operating results.

   

If our products are defectively manufactured, contain defective components or are used in defective or malfunctioning systems, we could be subject to warranty and product liability claims, product recalls, safety alerts or advisory notices.  

 

Although we generally attempt to contractually limit our exposure to incidental and consequential damages, if these contract provisions are not enforced or if liabilities arise that are not effectively limited, we could incur substantial costs in defending or settling product liability claims. While we currently have product liability insurance coverage, it may not provide coverage under certain circumstances and it may not be adequate to satisfy claims made against us. We also may be unable to maintain insurance in the future at satisfactory rates or in adequate amounts.

   

Warranty and product liability claims, product recalls, safety alerts or advisory notices, regardless of their coverage by insurance or their ultimate outcome, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and ability to attract and retain customers.

   

We may become involved in non‑patent related litigation and administrative proceedings that may materially adversely affect us.  

From time to time, we may become involved in various legal proceedings relating to matters incidental to the ordinary course of our business, including commercial, employment, class action, whistleblower and other litigation and claims, as well as governmental and other regulatory investigations and proceedings. Such matters can be time-consuming, divert management’s attention and resources and cause us to incur significant expenses. Furthermore, because litigation is inherently unpredictable, the results of these actions could subject us to monetary damages or other liabilities and have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.

   

Our indemnification obligations for the infringement by our products of the intellectual property rights of others could require us to pay substantial damages.  

   

As is common in our industry, we have a number of agreements in which we have agreed to defend, indemnify and hold harmless our customers and suppliers from damages and costs that may arise from the infringement by our products of third-party patents, trademarks or other proprietary rights. The scope of these indemnities varies, but may, in some instances, include indemnification for damages and expenses, including attorneys’ fees. The term of these indemnification obligations is generally perpetual after execution of an agreement and the maximum potential amount of future payments we could be required to make under these indemnification obligations is often unlimited. Any indemnification claims by customers could require us to incur significant legal fees and could potentially result in our

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payment of substantial damages, and our insurance generally would not cover these fees or damages. As a result, the occurrence of any of these risks could result in a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

 

We depend on a few key employees, and our business could be harmed if we lose the services of any of these employees or are unable to attract and retain other qualified personnel.  

   

To date, we have been highly dependent on the experience, relationships and technical knowledge of certain key employees. We believe that our future success will be dependent on our ability to retain the services of these key employees, develop their successors and properly manage the transition of their roles should departures occur. The loss of these key employees or their inability to provide their services could delay the development and introduction of new or enhanced products, negatively impact our ability to sell our existing products, limit our ability to pursue our other business goals and strategies and otherwise harm our business. We do not have employment agreements with any of these key employees other than Chun K. Hong, our President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of our board of directors. We maintain “Key Man” life insurance on Mr. Hong, but we do not carry “Key Man” life insurance on any of our other key employees.

   

Our future success also depends on our ability to attract, retain and motivate highly skilled engineering, manufacturing and other technical and sales personnel. Competition for experienced personnel is intense. We may not be successful in attracting new engineers or other technical personnel or in retaining or motivating our existing personnel. If we are unable to hire and retain engineers with the skills necessary to keep pace with the evolving technologies in our markets, our ability to continue to provide our existing products and to develop new or enhanced products will be negatively impacted, which would harm our business. In addition, a general shortage of experienced engineers could lead to increased recruiting, relocation and compensation costs to attract such engineers, which may exceed our expectations and resources. These increased costs may make hiring new engineers difficult or may increase our operating expenses.

   

A significant portion of our workforce consists of contract personnel. We invest considerable time and expense to train these contract personnel; however, they typically may terminate their relationships with us at any time. As a result, we may experience high turnover rates in this contract personnel workforce, which may require us to expend additional resources to attract, train and retain replacements. Additionally, if we convert any of these contract personnel into permanent employees, we may have to pay finder’s fees to the contract agency. These risks associated with our contract personnel workforce may involve increased costs or delays or failures in meeting customer requirements or developing new or enhanced products, any of which could materially adversely affect our business and operating performance.

We rely on our internal and third-party sales representatives to market and sell our products, and any failure by these representatives to perform as expected could reduce our sales.  

We primarily market and sell our products through a direct sales force and a network of independent sales representatives. We have expended significant resources to build our internal sales and marketing function, but compared to many of our competitors, we have relatively little experience creating a sales and marketing platform and developing a team to implement it. We may be unsuccessful in these efforts.

These sales representatives generally may terminate their relationships with us at any time. As a result, our performance depends in part on our ability to retain existing and attract additional sales representatives that will be able to market and support our products effectively, especially in markets in which we have not previously distributed our products. Our efforts to attract, train and retain these sales representatives to be knowledgeable about our industry, products and technologies are costly and time-consuming. If these efforts fail, our investments in these sales representatives may not produce the expected benefits and our ability to market and sell our products may be limited, which could materially harm our financial condition and operating results. Further, our reliance upon independent sales representatives subjects us to risks, as we have very little control over their activities and they are generally free to market and sell other, potentially competing products. As a result, these independent sales representatives could devote insufficient time or resources to marketing our products, could market them in an ineffective manner or could otherwise be unsuccessful in selling adequate quantities of our products.

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Economic, geographic and political and other risks associated with our international sales and operations expose us to significant risks.  

Part of our growth strategy involves making sales to foreign corporations and delivering our products to facilities located in foreign countries. To facilitate this process and to meet the long-term projected demand for our products, we have established a manufacturing facility in the PRC, which performs most of our worldwide manufacturing activities. Selling and manufacturing in foreign countries subjects us to additional risks not present with our domestic operations, as we are operating in business and regulatory environments in which we have limited experience. Further, the geographic distance from our headquarters in Irvine, California, compounds the difficulties of running a manufacturing operation in the PRC. For instance, we may not be able to maintain the desired amount of control over production capacity and timing, inventory levels, product quality, delivery schedules, manufacturing yields and costs. Moreover, we will need to continue to overcome language and cultural barriers to effectively conduct these international operations. Our failure to meet applicable regulatory requirements or overcome cultural barriers could result in legal consequences or production delays and increased turnaround times, which would adversely affect our business. In addition, changes to the labor laws of the PRC could increase the cost of employing the local workforce. The increased industrialization of the PRC, as well as general economic and political conditions in the PRC, could also increase the cost of local labor or the other costs of doing business in the PRC. Any of these factors could negatively impact the cost savings we experience from locating our manufacturing facility in the PRC. Additionally, our management has limited experience creating or overseeing foreign operations, and the ongoing management of our PRC facility may require our management team to divert substantial amounts of their time and attention, particularly if we encounter operational, legal or cultural difficulties or disruptions at our PRC facility.

To date, all of our net product sales have been denominated in U.S. dollars. In the future, however, some of our net product sales may be denominated in Chinese Renminbi (“RMB”). The Chinese government controls the procedures by which RMB is converted into other currencies, which generally requires government consent. As a result, RMB may not be freely convertible into other currencies at all times. If the Chinese government institutes changes in currency conversion procedures or imposes additional restrictions on currency conversion, our operations and our operating results could be negatively impacted. In addition, Chinese law imposes restrictions on the movement of funds outside of the PRC. If we need or decide to repatriate funds from our Chinese operations, we would be required to comply with the procedures and regulations of applicable Chinese law. Any failure to comply with these procedures and regulations could adversely affect our liquidity and financial condition. Further, if we are able to repatriate funds from our Chinese operations, these funds would be subject to U.S. corporate income tax. In addition, fluctuations in the exchange rate between RMB and U.S. dollars may adversely affect our expenses and results of operations, the value of our assets and liabilities and the comparability of our period-to-period results.

In addition, international turmoil and the threat of future terrorist attacks, both domestically and internationally, have contributed to an uncertain political and economic climate, both in the United States and globally, and have negatively impacted the worldwide economy. The economies of the PRC and other countries in which we make sales have been highly volatile in the recent past, resulting in significant fluctuations in local currencies and other instabilities. These conditions could continue or worsen, which could adversely affect our foreign operations and some of our customers or suppliers and our performance.

Our international sales are subject to a number of additional risks, including regulatory risks, timing and availability of export licenses, difficulties in accounts receivable collections, difficulties in managing distributors, lack of a significant local sales presence, difficulties in obtaining governmental approvals, compliance with a wide variety of complex foreign laws and treaties and potentially adverse tax consequences. In addition, the United States or foreign countries may implement quotas, duties, tariffs, taxes or other charges or restrictions upon the importation or exportation of our products, leading to a reduction in sales and profitability in that country. This risk of increased trade barriers or charges has become more pronounced following the results of the recent U.S. presidential election, as the trade policies of the current U.S. presidential administration, including withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and proposed revision to the North American Free Trade Agreement, could threaten or otherwise have a significant negative effect on our ability to continue to conduct our international operations in the manner and at the costs as we have in the past. Any increased costs or regulatory obstacles with respect to our international operations, including our manufacturing facility

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in the PRC and our international sales, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and prospects for growth.

Our operations could be disrupted by power outages, natural disasters or other factors.  

   

Due to the geographic concentration of our manufacturing operations in our PRC facility and our small number of component suppliers, a disruption resulting from equipment or power failures, quality control issues, human errors, government intervention or natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods, could require significant costs to repair and could interrupt or interfere with the manufacture of our products and cause significant delays in product shipments, which could harm our customer relationships, financial condition and results of operations. In July 2014, our PRC facility suffered water damage as a result of heavy rain and floods, which forced us to temporarily halt manufacturing at the facility while necessary repairs or replacements were made to the facility and to certain of our manufacturing equipment. This incident caused us to incur additional expenses, as we shifted our manufacturing activities to a third-party facility in the PRC to mitigate the disruption in product shipments to our customers. While we believe we were able to contain this disruption, we may not be able to secure alternative manufacturing capabilities if manufacturing at the PRC facility is disrupted in the future, in which case our relationships with our customers could be materially harmed. Additionally, while we were able to favorably resolve our claim with our insurance carrier with respect to the damage to our facility cause by the July 2014 incident, we may not experience the same outcome if a similar event occurs in the future, in which case we would be forced to bear the significant costs to repair any damage to our manufacturing equipment and facility.

   

Difficulties with our global information technology systems, including any unauthorized access, could harm our business.  

   

Any failure or malfunctioning of our global information technology systems, errors or misuse by system users, difficulties in migrating stand-alone systems to our centralized systems or inadequacy of the systems in addressing the needs of our operations could disrupt our ability to timely and accurately manufacture and ship products, divert management’s and key employees’ attention away from other business matters and involve significant costs and other resources to repair or otherwise resolve, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Any such event could also disrupt our ability to timely and accurately process, report and evaluate key operating metrics and key components of our results of operations, financial position and cash flows and could adversely affect our ability to complete other important business process, such as maintenance of our disclosure controls and procedures and evaluation of our internal control over financial reporting.

   

We store data about our business, including certain customer data, information about our and our customer’s intellectual property and other proprietary information, on our global information technology systems. While our systems includes security measures designed to prevent unauthorized access, third parties may circumvent these measures and gain unauthorized access to our systems. This unauthorized access could be the result of employee error, employee malfeasance or other causes, including intentional misconduct by computer hackers. Because the techniques used to gain unauthorized access to information technology systems evolve frequently and generally are not recognized until successful, we may be unable to anticipate these techniques or to implement adequate preventative measures. Any security breach could result in disruption to our business, misappropriation or loss of data, significant resources to correct, loss of confidence in us by our customers, damage to our reputation, legal liability and a negative impact on our performance.

   

Our failure to comply with environmental and other applicable laws and regulations could subject us to significant fines and liabilities or cause us to incur significant costs.  

   

We are subject to various and frequently changing U.S. federal, state and local and foreign laws and regulations relating to the protection of the environment, including laws governing the discharge of pollutants into the air and water, the management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes and the clean-up of contaminated sites. In particular, some of our manufacturing processes may require us to handle and dispose of hazardous materials from time to time. For example, in the past our manufacturing operations have used lead-based solder in the assembly of our products. Today, we use lead-free soldering technologies in our manufacturing processes, as this is required for products entering the

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European Union. We could incur substantial costs, including clean-up costs, civil or criminal fines or sanctions and third-party claims for property damage or personal injury, as a result of violations of or noncompliance with these and other environmental laws and regulations. Although we have not incurred significant costs to date to comply with these laws and regulations, new laws or changes to current laws and regulations to make them more stringent could require us to incur significant costs to remain in compliance.

   

We are also subject to a variety of laws and regulations relating to other matters, including workplace health and safety, labor and employment, foreign business practices, public reporting and taxation, among others. It is difficult and costly to manage the requirements of every authority having jurisdiction over our various activities and to comply with their varying standards. Any changes to existing regulations or adoption of new regulations may result in significant additional expense to us and our customers. Further, our failure to comply with any applicable laws and regulations may result in a variety of administrative, civil and criminal enforcement measures, including monetary penalties or imposition of sanctions or other corrective requirements, any of which could materially adversely affect our reputation and our business.

   

Regulations related to “conflict minerals” may cause us to incur additional expenses and could limit the supply and increase the cost of certain metals used in manufacturing our products.  

   

In August 2012, the SEC adopted rules requiring disclosure of specified minerals, known as conflict minerals, that are necessary to the functionality or production of products manufactured or contracted to be manufactured by public companies. The rules require companies to verify and disclose whether or not such minerals, as used in a company’s products or their manufacture, originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo or an adjoining country. Because our products contain certain conflict minerals and we or our manufacturers use these conflict minerals in the manufacture of our products, we are required to comply with these disclosure rules. To comply with the rules, we are required to conduct a reasonable country of origin inquiry each year and, depending on the results of that inquiry, we may be required to exercise due diligence on the source and chain of custody of conflict minerals contained in or used to manufacture our products. Such due diligence must conform to a nationally or internationally recognized due diligence framework. We are also required to file a disclosure report with the SEC of each year relating to our conflict mineral use.

   

The due diligence activities required to determine the source and chain of custody of minerals contained in our products or used in their manufacture are time -consuming and may result in significant costs.  Due to the size and complexity of our supply chain, we face significant challenges in verifying the origins of the minerals used in our products.  Further, these rules could affect the availability in sufficient quantities and at competitive prices of certain minerals used in our products and their manufacture, which could result in increased material and component costs and additional costs associated with potential changes to our products, processes or sources of supply.  Additionally, if we are unable to sufficiently verify the origin of the minerals used in our products through the due diligence measures that we implement, we may not be able to satisfy customers who require that our products be certified as “conflict-free,” which could place us at a competitive disadvantage.

   

Our internal control over financial reporting may not be effective, which could have a significant and adverse effect on our business.  

   

Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the related rules and regulations of the SEC, which we collectively refer to as Section 404, require us to evaluate our internal control over financial reporting and require management to report on the effectiveness of this internal control as of the end of each year. Effective internal control is necessary for us to produce reliable financial reports and is important in our effort to prevent financial fraud. In the course of our Section 404 evaluations, we or our independent registered public accounting firm may identify significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting. If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting or if management or our independent registered public accounting firm discover material weaknesses, we may be unable to produce reliable financial reports or prevent fraud, which could harm our financial condition and results of operations, result in a loss of investor confidence and negatively impact our stock price. Further, our Section 404 evaluations may lead us to conclude that enhancements, modifications or changes

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to our internal control over financial reporting are necessary or desirable. Implementing any such changes would divert the attention of management, could involve significant time and costs and may negatively impact our financial results.

   

If we do not effectively manage any future growth we may experience, our resources, systems and controls may be strained and our results of operations may suffer.  

   

Any future growth we may experience could strain our resources, management, information and telecommunication systems and operating and financial controls. To manage future growth effectively, including any expansion of volume in our manufacturing facility in the PRC, we must be able to improve and expand our systems and controls. We may not be able to do this in a timely or cost-effective manner. In addition, our officers have relatively limited experience in managing a rapidly growing business. As a result, they may not be able to manage any future growth we may experience. Any failure to manage any growth we may experience or improve or expand our existing systems and controls, or unexpected difficulties in doing so, could harm our business.

   

If we acquire businesses or technologies or pursue other strategic transactions in the future, these transactions could disrupt our business and harm our operating results and financial condition.  

   

We evaluate opportunities to acquire businesses or technologies or pursue other strategic transactions, including collaboration or joint development arrangements such as our JDLA with Samsung, that might complement our current product offerings or enhance our intellectual property portfolio or technical capabilities. We have no experience acquiring other businesses or technologies. Acquisitions and other strategic transactions entail a number of risks that could adversely affect our business and operating results, including, among others:

·

difficulties in integrating the operations, technologies or products of acquired companies or working with third parties with which we may partner on joint development or collaboration relationships;

·

the diversion of management’s time and attention from the normal daily operations of the business;

·

insufficient increases in revenues to offset increased expenses associated with an acquisition or strategic transaction;

 

·

difficulties retaining business relationships with our existing suppliers and customers or the suppliers and customers of an acquired company;

 

·

overestimation of potential synergies or a delay in realizing these synergies;

 

·

entering markets in which we have no or limited experience and in which competitors have stronger market positions;

 

·

the potential loss of key employees of our Company or any acquired companies;

 

·

exposure to contingent liabilities of an acquired company;

 

·

depletion of cash resources to fund an acquisition or other strategic transaction, or dilution of existing stockholders or increased leverage relative to our earnings or to our equity capitalization if we issue debt or equity securities to fund the transaction;

 

·

adverse tax consequences; and

 

·

incurrence of material charges, such as depreciation, deferred compensation charges, in-process research and development charges, the amortization of amounts related to deferred stock-based compensation expense and identifiable purchased intangible assets or impairment of goodwill.

 

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If any of these risks were to occur, we may not be able to realize the intended benefits of an acquisition or strategic transaction and our operating results, financial condition and business prospects could be materially negatively affected.

   

Risks Related to Our Common Stock  

   

Our results of operations fluctuate significantly and are difficult to predict, and any failure to meet investor or analyst expectations could cause the price of our common stock to decline.

   

Our operating results have fluctuated significantly in the past, and we expect they will continue to fluctuate from quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year in the future due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control. Factors relating to our business that may contribute to these quarterly and annual fluctuations include, among other, the other risk factors described in this Item 1A. Due to the various factors described herein and others, the results of any prior quarterly or annual periods should not be relied upon as an indication of our future operating performance. If our quarterly results of operations fall below the expectations of securities analysts or investors, the price of our common stock could decline substantially. As a result of the significant fluctuations of our operating results in prior periods, period-to-period comparisons of our operating results may not be meaningful and investors in our common stock should not rely on these comparisons.

   

Our principal stockholders have significant voting power and may take actions that may not be in the best interest of our other stockholders.  

   

As of March 24, 2017, 9.2% of our outstanding common stock was held by our directors and officers, including 8.2% held by Chun K. Hong, our Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of our board of directors. As a result, Mr. Hong has the ability to exert substantial influence over all matters requiring approval by our stockholders, including the election and removal of directors, any proposed merger, consolidation or sale of all or substantially all of our assets and other significant corporate transactions. This concentration of control could be disadvantageous to other stockholders with interests different from those of Mr. Hong.

   

Anti-takeover provisions under our charter documents and Delaware law could delay or prevent a change of control and could also limit the market price of our common stock.  

   

Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws contain provisions that could delay or prevent a change of control of our Company or changes in our board of directors that our stockholders might consider favorable. In addition, these anti-takeover provisions could limit the price that investors would be willing to pay for shares of our common stock. The following are examples of the anti-takeover provision that are included in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws as currently in effect:

   

 

 

 

our board of directors is authorized, without prior stockholder approval, to designate and issue preferred stock, commonly referred to as “blank check” preferred stock, which may have rights senior to those of our common stock;

   

 

 

 

stockholder action by written consent is prohibited;

   

 

 

 

nominations for election to our board of directors and the submission of matters to be acted upon by stockholders at a meeting are subject to advance notice requirements; and

   

 

 

 

our board of directors is expressly authorized to make, alter or repeal our bylaws.

   

In addition, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which may prohibit certain business combinations with stockholders owning 15% or more of our outstanding voting stock. These and other provisions in our certificate of incorporation and bylaws and of Delaware law could make it more difficult for stockholders or potential acquirers to obtain control of our board of directors or initiate actions that are opposed by our board of directors, including a merger, tender offer, proxy contest or other change of control transaction

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involving our Company. Any delay or prevention of a change of control transaction or changes in our board of directors could prevent the consummation of a transaction in which our stockholders could receive a substantial premium over the then-current market price for our common stock.

   

The price and trading volume of our common stock has and may continue to fluctuate significantly.  

   

Our common stock has been publicly traded since November 2006. The price and trading volume of our common stock are volatile and have in the past fluctuated significantly. This volatility could continue, in which case an active trading market in our common stock may never be sustained and stockholder may not be able to sell their shares at the desired time or the desired price. The market price at which our common stock trades may be influenced by many factors, including, among others, the following:

 

·

our operating and financial performance and prospects, including our ability to achieve and sustain profitability in the future;

·

investor perception of us and the industry in which we operate;

 

·

the availability and level of research coverage of and market-making in our common stock;

·

changes in earnings estimates or buy/sell recommendations by analysts;

 

·

any financial projections we may provide to the public, any changes to these projections or our failure to meet these projections;

 

·

our announcement of significant strategic transactions or relationships or the initiation of legal proceedings, including patent infringement actions;

 

·

the results of legal proceedings in which we are involved;

·

sales of newly issued common stock or other securities or the perception that such sales may occur; and

 

·

general political, economic and market conditions, including volatility in these conditions.

 

In addition, shares of our common stock and the public stock markets in general have experienced, and may continue to experience, extreme price and trading volume volatility, at times irrespective of the state of the business of any particular company. These fluctuations may adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

 

In 2007, following a drop in the market price of our common stock, securities litigation was initiated against us. Given the historic volatility of our securities and securities in our industry, we may become engaged in this type of litigation again in the future. Securities litigation, like other types of litigation, is expensive and time-consuming and could subject us to unfavorable results.

   

We do not currently intend to pay dividends on our common stock, and any return to investors is expected to come, if at all, only from potential increases in the price of our common stock.

 

We intend to use all available funds to finance our operations. Accordingly, while payment of dividends rests within the discretion of our board of directors, no cash dividends on our common shares have been declared or paid by us in the past and we have no intention of paying any such dividends in the foreseeable future. Any return to investors is expected to come, if at all, only from potential increases in the price of our common stock.

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We may not be able to maintain our NASDAQ listing.

During 2015 and into early 2016, there were periods in which we were not compliant with the continued listing standards of the NASDAQ Global Market. As a result of a compliance process, we transferred the listing of our common stock from the NASDAQ Global Market to the NASDAQ Capital Market. In February 2016, we received a compliance letter from the NASDAQ Stock Market notifying us that we had regained compliance with the applicable requirements for continued listing on the NASDAQ Capital Market. Notwithstanding our current compliance, we may not be able to continue to comply with the continued listing standards of the NASDAQ Capital Market.  If we are delisted from the NASDAQ Capital Market, the liquidity of our common stock may be impaired and the market price of our common stock may decline.

Item 1B.  Unresolved Staff Comments .

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 2.  Properties

 

Our corporate headquarters is located in approximately 8,200 square feet of space in Irvine, California, under a lease that expires in July 2017. We also currently lease approximately 42,200 square feet of space for our manufacturing facility in the PRC under a lease that expires in June 2017.

 

We believe that our current facilities are adequate for our current and expected operations for the next twelve months and that additional space could be obtained if needed.

 

Item 3.  Legal Proceedings

 

The information under the heading “Litigation and Patent Reexaminations” in Note 7 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this report is incorporated herein by reference.

 

Item 4.  Mine Safety Disclosures

 

Not applicable.

 

PART II

 

Item 5.  Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securitie s

 

Our common stock began trading under the trading symbol “NLST” on the NASDAQ Global Market on November 30, 2006. As of January 14, 2016, our common stock commenced trading on the NASDAQ Capital Market

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under the same trading symbol. The following table sets forth the high and low sales prices for our common stock as reported on the NASDAQ Global Market or the NASDAQ Capital Market tier, as applicable, for the periods indicated:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

High

    

Low

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended December 31, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Quarter

 

$

1.31

 

$

0.93

 

Third Quarter

 

 

1.83

 

 

1.13

 

Second Quarter

 

 

1.49

 

 

0.94

 

First Quarter

 

 

1.75

 

 

0.60

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended January 2, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Quarter

 

$

1.10

 

$

0.35

 

Third Quarter

 

 

0.60

 

 

0.28

 

Second Quarter

 

 

0.76

 

 

0.50

 

First Quarter

 

 

2.09

 

 

0.52

 

 

Holders

 

As of March 24, 2017 there were approximately 9 holders of record of our shares of common stock, plus an indeterminate number of additional stockholders whose shares of our common stock are held on their behalf by brokerage firms or other agents.

 

Recent Sales of Unregistered Securities

 

On November 22, 2016, a warrant holder exercised a warrant to acquire 1,000,000 shares of our common stock in full on a cashless basis, pursuant to which the 1,000,000 shares were exercised in exchange for our issuance of an aggregate of 605,599 shares of our common stock. The warrant was originally issued in November 2015 to an affiliate of our former lender, Fortress Credit Opportunities I LP. Additionally, on December 22, 2016, a warrant holder exercised for cash a warrant to acquire 60,000 shares of our common stock in full, pursuant to which we received a cash payment of $27,000.  This warrant was originally issued in November 2015 to a law firm as partial consideration for legal services rendered.

 

None of these warrants or the common stock issuable upon exercise of the warrants has been registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”). The securities were sold and issued in reliance upon the exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act afforded by Section 4(a)(2) thereof. In determining that the issuance of the securities qualified for exemption under Section 4(a)(2), we relied upon the following facts: we did not use general solicitation or advertising to market or sell the securities; each warrant holder represented to us that it was an accredited investor (as that term is defined in Rule 501 of Regulation D under the Securities Act) and that it was acquiring the securities with the present intention of holding them for purposes of investment and not with a view to their public resale or distribution within the meaning of the Securities Act; and the securities were issued as restricted securities.

 

Dividend Policy

 

We have never declared or paid cash dividends on our capital stock. Additionally, our credit facility with SVB prohibits the payment of cash dividends without obtaining SVB’s prior consent. Accordingly, we do not anticipate declaring or paying cash dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future. Any payments of cash dividends will be at the discretion of our board of directors, and will depend upon our results of operations, capital requirements, legal and contractual restrictions and other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Item 6.  Selected Financial Data

 

Not applicable.

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Item 7.  Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operation s

 

The following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this report.

 

Forward-Looking Statements

 

This discussion and analysis includes “forward‑looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are statements other than historical facts and often address future events and our future performance. Words such as "anticipate," "estimate," "expect," "project," "intend," "may," “will,” “might,” "plan," "predict," "believe," "should," “could” and similar words or expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. Forward-looking statements contained in this discussion and analysis include statements about, among other things: our plans relating to our intellectual property, including our strategy for monetizing, licensing, expanding, and defending our patent portfolio; our expectations with respect to strategic partners, including our relationship with Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (“Samsung”) and the potential for commercial licensing agreements; our expectations regarding outstanding legal proceedings and patent reexaminations relating to our intellectual property portfolio, including our pending proceedings against SK hynix Inc., a South Korean memory semiconductor supplier (“SK hynix”); our beliefs regarding the market and demand for our products; and our expectations regarding our strategy, business plans and objectives, our future operations and financial position, including future revenues, costs and prospects, and our liquidity and capital resources, including cash flows, sufficiency of cash resources, efforts to reduce expenses and the potential for future financings. All forward-looking statements reflect management’s present expectations regarding future events and are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in or implied by any forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include those described in Item 1A. Risk Factors of this report. Given these risks, uncertainties and other important factors, you should not place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements represent our estimates and assumptions only as of the date made, and except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements for any reason.

 

Overview 

 

We are a leading provider of high-performance modular memory subsystems serving customers in diverse industries that require superior memory performance to empower critical business decisions. We have a long history of introducing disruptive new products, such as one of the first load reduced dual in-line memory modules ("LRDIMM") based on our distributed buffer architecture, which has been adopted by the industry for DDR4 LRDIMM. We were also one of the first to bring NAND flash memory ("NAND flash") to the memory channel with our NVvault non-volatile dual in-line memory modules ("NVDIMM") using software-intensive controllers and merging dynamic random access memory integrated circuits (“DRAM ICs” or "DRAM") and NAND flash to solve data bottleneck and data retention challenges encountered in high-performance computing environments. We recently introduced a new generation of storage class memory products called HybriDIMM to address the growing need for real-time analytics in Big Data applications and in-memory databases.

 

Due to the ground-breaking product development of our engineering teams, we have built a robust portfolio of over 100 issued and pending U.S. and foreign patents, many seminal, in the areas of hybrid memory, storage class memory, rank multiplication and load reduction. Since our inception in 2000, we have dedicated substantial resources to the development and protection of technology innovations essential to our business. Our early pioneering work in these areas has been broadly adopted in industry-standard LRDIMM and in NVDIMM. Our objective is to continue to innovate in our field and invest further in our intellectual property portfolio, with the goal of monetizing our intellectual property through a combination of product sales and licensing, royalty or other revenue-producing arrangements, which may result from joint development or similar partnerships or defense of our patents through enforcement actions against parties we believe are infringing them.

 

In November 2015, we entered into a joint development and license agreement (“JDLA”) pursuant to which we and Samsung have agreed to work together to jointly develop new storage class memory technologies including a

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standardized product interface for NVDIMM-P memory modules in order to facilitate broad industry adoption of this new technology. The JDLA also includes comprehensive cross-licenses to our and Samsung’s patent portfolios for the purpose of developing this product interface, grants Samsung a right of first refusal to acquire our HybriDIMM technology before we offer the technology to a third party, and grants us access to competitively priced DRAM and NAND flash raw materials. The JDLA also provided for an $8.0 million non-recurring engineering (“NRE”) fee that we received from Samsung for the joint development and calls for potential marketing collaboration and for the exchange of potential monetary consideration as progress is made towards commercialization of our storage class memory product. Moreover, we believe Samsung represents an important strategic partner with a high level of technical capability in memory that can facilitate bringing our HybriDIMM technology to market. In connection with the JDLA, we also received gross proceeds of $15.0 million for our issuance of a Senior Secured Convertible Note (“SVIC Note”) and Stock Purchase Warrant (“SVIC Warrant”) to SVIC No. 28 New Technology Business Investment L.L.P., an affiliate of Samsung Venture Investment Co. (“SVIC”).

 

Further, in September 2016, we took action to protect and defend our innovations by filing legal proceedings for patent infringement against SK hynix and two of its subsidiaries in the U.S. International Trade Commission ("ITC") and in district court. We are seeking an exclusion order in the ITC that directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop allegedly infringing SK hynix RDIMM and LRDIMM products from entering the United States. The evidentiary hearing in the ITC investigations will occur in May 2017, with a final initial determination expected to be issued by the ITC in October 2017. In the district court proceedings, we are primarily seeking damages. Our patents involved in the proceedings cover key features of RDIMM and LRDIMM, which we believe are strategic product lines for SK hynix that together account for a significant portion of SK hynix's total revenue and profits.

 

We recorded total net revenues of $19.7 million and $8.0 million and we incurred net losses of $11.2 million and $20.5 million for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016, respectively. We have historically financed our operations primarily through issuances of equity and debt securities and revenues generated from operations, including product sales and NRE revenues from the JDLA. We have also funded our operations with a revolving line of credit and term loans under a bank credit facility and, to a lesser extent, equipment leasing arrangements. See “Liquidity and Capital Resources” below for further information.

 

 

Recent Developments

 

On March 27, 2017, we entered into an amendment to our credit agreement (as amended, the “SVB Credit Agreement”) with Silicon Valley Bank (“SVB”). The amendment extends the maturity date of advances under the SVB Credit Agreement to April 1, 2018, modifies our financial covenants under the SVB Credit Agreement to remove all prior financial standards and replace them with a liquidity ratio standard, removes or amends certain termination, anniversary and unused facility fees payable by us under the SVB Credit Agreement, and makes certain other administrative changes.

 

Key Business Metrics

 

The following describes certain line items in our consolidated statements of operations that are important to management’s assessment of our financial performance:

 

Net Product Sales

 

Net product sales consist primarily of sales of our high-performance memory subsystems, net of a provision for estimated returns under our right of return policies, which generally range up to 30 days. We do not have long-term agreements with any of our customers. Instead, sales are made primarily pursuant to standard purchase orders.  Although OEM customers typically provide us with non-binding forecasts of future product demand over specific periods of time, they generally place orders with us no more than two weeks in advance of the desired delivery date. Selling prices are typically negotiated monthly, based on competitive market conditions and the current price of key product components, including DRAM ICs and NAND flash. Purchase orders generally have no cancellation or rescheduling penalty

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provisions. We often ship our products to our customers’ international manufacturing sites. All of our sales to date, however, are denominated in U.S. dollars.

 

We also resell certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model, including storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers. In 2016, resales of these products represented approximately 21% of our net product sales and we expect resales of these products to increase over time. Additionally, we sell excess component inventory of DRAM ICs and NAND flash to distributors and other users of memory integrated circuits. Component inventory sales are a relatively small percentage of net product sales, due in part to our efforts to diversify our customer base and our product line. This diversification effort has also allowed us to use components in a wider range of memory subsystems. We expect that component inventory sales will continue to represent a minimal portion of our net product sales in future periods.

 

Engineering Services

 

Pursuant to the terms of our JDLA with Samsung, we provided certain engineering services for Samsung and received a NRE fee as compensation for these services.  These fees from Samsung are the only such fees for engineering services that we have received to date, although we may in the future receive additional fees of this type, from Samsung or other customers, depending on the terms of the relationships we may develop.

 

Cost of Sales

Our cost of sales includes the cost of materials, labor and other manufacturing costs, depreciation and amortization of equipment expenses, inventory valuation provisions, stock-based compensation expense, occupancy costs and other allocated fixed costs. To the extent that we continue to resell certain Samsung products, our cost of sales also includes the cost of the products that we purchase from Samsung under the terms of the JDLA.

The DRAM ICs and NAND flash incorporated into our products constitute a significant portion of our cost of sales, and thus our cost of sales will fluctuate based on the cost of DRAM ICs and NAND flash. We attempt to pass through these DRAM IC and NAND flash cost fluctuations to our customers by frequently renegotiating pricing prior to the placement of their purchase orders. However, the sales prices of our memory subsystems can also fluctuate due to competitive conditions in our key customer markets that are unrelated to the cost of DRAM ICs and NAND flash, which affects our gross margin. In addition, we have in the past experienced supply chain disruptions and shortages of DRAM and NAND flash required to create our HyperCloud, NVvault and Planar X VLP products, which can cause fluctuations in our net product sales and gross profits. In addition, the gross margin on our sales of any excess component DRAM IC and NAND flash inventory, as well as on our resales of Samsung products, is much lower than the gross margin on our sales of our memory subsystems. As a result, fluctuations in DRAM IC and NAND flash inventory sales and Samsung product resales as a percentage of our overall sales could impact our overall gross margin.

In addition, any significant decrease in demand for our products could result in an increase in the amount of excess inventory quantities on hand. In addition, our estimates of future product demand may prove to be inaccurate, in which case we may have understated or overstated the provision required for excess and obsolete inventory. In the future, if our inventories are determined to be overvalued, we would be required to recognize additional expense in our cost of sales at the time of such determination. Likewise, if our inventories are determined to be undervalued, we may have over-reported our costs of sales in previous periods and would be required to recognize additional gross profit at the time such inventories are sold. In addition, should the market value of DRAM ICs or NAND flash decrease significantly, we may be required to lower our selling prices to reflect the lower cost of our raw materials. If such price decreases reduce the net realizable value of our inventories to less than our cost, we would be required to recognize additional expense in our cost of sales in the same period. Although we make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy of our forecasts of future product demand, any significant unanticipated changes in demand, technological developments or the market value of DRAM ICs or NAND flash could have a material effect on the value of our inventories and our reported operating results.

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Research and Development

 

Research and development expenses consist primarily of employee and independent contractor compensation and related costs, stock‑based compensation expense, NRE fees, computer‑aided design software license costs, reference design development costs, depreciation or rental of evaluation equipment expenses, and occupancy and other allocated overhead costs. Also included in research and development expense are the costs of materials and overhead related to the production of engineering samples of new products under development or products used solely in the research and development process. Our customers typically do not separately compensate us for design and engineering work involved in developing application‑specific products for them. All research and development costs are expensed as incurred. We anticipate that research and development expenditures will increase in future periods as we seek to expand new product opportunities, increase our activities related to new and emerging markets and continue to develop additional proprietary technologies.

 

Intellectual Property Legal Fees

 

Intellectual property legal fees consist of legal fees incurred for patent filings, protection and enforcement. We anticipate that intellectual property legal fees will increase in future periods as we seek to expand and continue to protect our patent portfolio.

 

Selling, General and Administrative

 

Selling, general and administrative expenses primarily consist of employee compensation and related costs, stock-based compensation expense, independent sales representative commissions, professional services fees, promotional and other selling and marketing expenses, and occupancy and other allocated overhead costs. A significant portion of our selling effort is directed at building relationships with OEMs and other customers and working through the product approval and qualification process with them. Therefore, the cost of material and overhead related to products manufactured for qualification is included in selling expenses.

 

Provision for Income Taxes

 

The federal statutory rate was 34% and 35% for fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2015, respectively.  Our effective tax rate differs from the statutory rate because we provide a full valuation allowance against net deferred tax assets, and accordingly we did not recognize an income tax benefit related to losses incurred.

 

Factors Affecting Our Performance

 

Trends in Product Sales

 

Historically, we have been substantially dependent on sales of single products or product categories. For instance, for the fiscal year ended January 2, 2016, our NVvault NVDIMM used in cache-protection and data-logging applications, including our NVvault battery‑free, the flash‑based cache system, accounted for approximately 20% of our net product sales, and for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, our resales of certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model accounted for approximately 21% of our net product sales. Demand for these products could decline at any time for a number of reasons, including, among others, product obsolescence, introduction of more advanced or otherwise superior competing products by our competitors, the ability to obtain these products or substitute products from alternate sources, or the other risk factors described in this Item 1A. Further, we have no long-term purchase agreements or other commitments with respect to sales of any of our products. As a result, any decline in demand for these products from us would result in our reduced sales of these products, which could materially adversely impact our revenues and results.

 

For example, we have experienced a sharp decline in NVvault sales in recent years, due in large part to our loss of our former most significant NVvault customer, Dell beginning in 2012. For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016, 0.4% of our net product sales were from sales of NVvault products, down from 20% during the prior year, and we

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recognized no NVvault sales to Dell in the fiscal years ending December 31, 2016 or January 2, 2016 and we expect no future demand from Dell for these products. In order to leverage our NVvault technology and secure one or more new key customers, we continue to pursue additional qualifications of NVvault with other OEMs and to target new customer applications, such as online transaction processing, virtualization, Big Data analytics, highspeed transaction processing, high-performance database applications and in‑memory database applications. We also introduced EXPRESSvault in March 2011 and the next-generation of EXPRESSvault (EV3) in July 2015, and we continue to pursue qualification of the next-generation DDR3 NVvault and DDR4 NVvault with customers. Our future operating results will depend on our ability to commercialize these NVvault product extensions, as well as our other products such as HybriDIMM and other high‑density and high-performance solutions. HybriDIMM is still under development and may require substantial additional investment and the services and attention of key employees who have competing demands on their available time. Although we believe that our JDLA with Samsung may advance the development of this product, our partnership with Samsung and any other steps we take to further the development of this or any other products in development could fail. If we are not successful in expanding our qualifications or marketing any new or enhanced products, we will be unable to secure revenues sufficient to replace lost NVvault revenues and our results of operations and prospects could be materially harmed.

 

In addition, significant sales of certain products could impact our costs and our margins. For instance, our resales of Samsung products, which contributed a significant portion of our net product sales in 2016, carry lower gross margin than sales of our own products. As a result, any increase in sales of these products in future periods could reduce our overall gross profit margin.

 

Customer Base and Concentrations

 

In 2015 and 2016, we primarily marketed and sold our products to leading OEMs in the server, high-performance computing and communications markets. Additionally, we resold certain Samsung products that we purchase under the terms of our JDLA with Samsung to certain end-customers that are not reached in Samsung’s distribution model, including storage customers, appliance customers, system builders and cloud and datacenter customers.

 

Sales to a small number of customers represent a substantial portion of our net product sales. Approximately 16% of our net product sales in the year ended December 31, 2016 were to one customer, which was a new customer in 2016. Approximately 27% and 10% of our net product sales in the year ended January 2, 2016 were to two customers, both of which purchased few products and contributed only a small portion of our revenues in 2016. Because our target markets are characterized by a limited number of large companies, we anticipate that sales of our products will continue to be concentrated among a small number of large customers in the foreseeable future. Additionally, the composition of major customers and their respective contributions to our net product sales have varied and will likely continue to vary from period to period as our existing and prospective customers progress through the life cycle of the products they produce and sell.

 

We do not have long-term agreements with any of our customers and, as result, any or all of them could decide at any time to discontinue, decrease or delay their purchase of our products. In addition, the prices that these customers pay for our products could change at any time. Further, we may not be able to sell some products developed for one customer to a different customer because our products are often customized to address specific customer requirements, and even if we are able to sell these products to another customer, our margin on these products may be reduced. Additionally, although customers are generally allowed only limited rights of return after purchasing our products, we may determine that it is in our best interest to accept returns from certain large or key customers even if we are not contractually obligated to accept them in order to maintain good relations with these customers. Any returns beyond our expectations could negatively impact our operating results. Moreover, because a few customers account for a substantial portion of our net product sales, the failure of any one of these customers to pay on a timely basis would negatively impact our cash flows. As a result, the loss of any of our customers or a reduction in sales to or difficulties collecting payments from any of them could significantly reduce our net product sales and adversely affect our operating results.

 

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Intellectual Property Protection and Enforcement

 

We dedicate substantial resources to protecting our intellectual property, including our pending patent infringement litigation and ITC proceedings against SK hynix and our efforts to defend our patents against challenges made by way of reexamination and review proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”). We expect these activities to continue for the foreseeable future, without any guarantee that any ongoing or future patent protection or litigation activities will be successful. We are also subject to litigation based on claims that we have infringed the intellectual property rights of others, against which we intend to defend ourselves vigorously. Moreover, any litigation, regardless of its outcome, would involve a significant dedication of resources, including time and costs, would divert management’s time and attention and could negatively impact our results of operations. As a result, any current or future infringement claims by or against third parties could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

 

Next-Generation Products

 

We have invested significant research and development time and costs into the design of application-specific integrated circuit (“ASIC”) and hybrid devices, including our NVvault family of products and most recently our next-generation HybriDIMM memory subsystem. Our intent is to capitalize on our early lead in the storage class memory market by commercializing these products and pursuing production orders from our existing customers, as well as leveraging our JDLA partnership with Samsung to penetrate new customer accounts. We publicly demonstrated a HybriDIMM prototype in August 2016, and we are planning to sample HybriDIMM with alpha customers in the second half of 2017 and subsequently work with customers to transition to volume production.

 

We believe that market acceptance of these products or derivative products that incorporate our core memory subsystem technology is critical to our success. However, these products are subject to increased risks as compared to our legacy products. For example, we are dependent on a limited number of suppliers for the DRAM and ASIC devices that are essential to the functionality of these products and in the past we have experienced supply chain disruptions and shortages of DRAM and NAND flash required to create our NVvault family of products, and our products are generally subject to a product approval and qualification process with customers before purchases are made and we have experienced a longer qualification cycle than anticipated with some of these products, including our HyperCloud memory subsystems.  These and other risks attendant to the production of our memory subsystem products could impair our ability to obtain customer or market acceptance of these products or obtain such acceptance in a timely manner, which would reduce our achievable revenues from these products and limit our ability to recoup our investments in the products.

 

Monetizing Our Intellectual Property Portfolio

 

We have dedicated substantial resources to the development and protection of technology innovations essential to our business, and we expect these activities to continue for the foreseeable future. We also intend to aggressively pursue monetization avenues for our intellectual property portfolio, potentially including licensing, royalty or other revenue-producing arrangements. However, our revenues are currently generated by our product sales and a NRE fee received from Samsung in connection with the JDLA, and we may never be successful in generating a revenue stream from our intellectual property, in which case our investments of time, capital and other resources into our intellectual property portfolio may not provide adequate, or any, returns.

 

Although we may pursue agreements with third parties to commercially license certain of our products or technologies, we may never successfully enter into any such agreement. Further, the terms of any such agreements that we may reach with third-party licensees are uncertain and may not provide sufficient royalty or other licensing revenues to us to justify our costs of developing and maintaining the licensed intellectual property or may otherwise include terms that are not favorable to us. Additionally, the pursuit of licensing arrangements would require by its nature that we relinquish certain of our rights to our technologies and intellectual property that we license to third parties, which could limit our ability to base our own products on such technologies or could reduce the economic value that we receive from such technologies and intellectual property. Additionally, the establishment of arrangements to monetize our intellectual property may be more difficult or costly than expected, may require additional personnel and investments and may be a

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significant distraction for management. If we are not successful in monetizing our intellectual property portfolio, we may never recoup the costs associated with developing, maintaining, defending and enforcing this portfolio and our financial condition and prospects would be harmed.

 

PRC Operations

 

Our manufacturing operations in the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) are subject to various political, geographic and economic risks and uncertainties inherent to conducting business in the PRC. These include, among others, (i) volatility and other potential changes in economic conditions in the region, (ii) managing a local workforce and overcoming other practical barriers, such as language and cultural differences, that may subject us to uncertainties or unfamiliar practices or regulatory policies, (iii) risks imposed by the geographic distance between our headquarters and our PRC operations, including difficulties maintaining the desired amount of control over production capacity and timing, inventory levels, product quality, delivery schedules, manufacturing yields and costs, (iv) our limited experience creating and overseeing foreign operations generally, (v) changes in the laws and policies of the Chinese government that affect business practices generally or restrict local operations by foreign companies, and (vi) changes in the laws and policies of the U.S. government regarding the conduct of business in foreign countries generally or in the PRC in particular, which may be more uncertain following the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Additionally, the Chinese government controls the procedures by which its local currency, the Chinese Renminbi (“RMB”), is converted into other currencies, which generally requires government consent, and imposes legal and regulatory restrictions on the movement of funds outside of the PRC. As a result, RMB may not be freely convertible into other currencies at all times and we may need to comply with regulatory procedures to repatriate funds from our Chinese operations. Any changes to currency conversion requirements or any failure by us to comply with repatriation procedures and regulations could adversely affect our operating results, liquidity and financial condition. In addition, fluctuations in the exchange rate between RMB and U.S. dollars may adversely affect our expenses and results of operations, the value of our assets and liabilities and the comparability of our period-to-period results.

 

Business Risks and Uncertainties

 

Our business, financial condition and prospects are exposed to a number of other risks and uncertainties. For more information, see the discussion in Item 1A. Risk Factors of this report.

 

Critical Accounting Policies

 

The preparation of our consolidated financial statements in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the consolidated financial statements and the reported amounts of net revenues and expenses during the reporting period. By their nature, these estimates and assumptions are subject to an inherent degree of uncertainty. We base our estimates on our historical experience, knowledge of current conditions and our beliefs of what could occur in the future considering available information. We review our estimates on an on-going basis. Actual results may differ from these estimates, which may result in material adverse effects on our operating results and financial position. We believe the following critical accounting policies involve our more significant assumptions and estimates used in the preparation of our consolidated financial statements:

 

Revenue Recognition

 

Net Product Sales

 

Net product sales primarily consist of sales of high-performance modular memory subsystems to OEMs, hyperscale data center operators and storage vendors.

 

We recognize revenues in accordance with Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) Accounting Standards Codification (“ASC”) Topic 605. Accordingly, we recognize revenues when there is persuasive evidence that an arrangement exists, product delivery and acceptance have occurred, the sales price is fixed or determinable, and collectability of the resulting receivable is reasonably assured.

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We generally use customer purchase orders and/or contracts as evidence of an arrangement. Delivery occurs when goods are shipped for customers with shipping point terms and upon receipt for customers with destination terms, at which time title and risk of loss transfer to the customer. Shipping documents are used to verify delivery and customer acceptance. We assess whether the sales price is fixed or determinable based on the payment terms associated with the transaction and whether the sales price is subject to refund. Customers are generally allowed limited rights of return for up to 30 days, except for sales of excess component inventories, which contain no right-of-return privileges. Estimated returns are provided for at the time of sale based on historical experience or specific identification of an event necessitating a reserve. We offer a standard product warranty to our customers and have no other post-shipment obligations. We assess collectability based on the creditworthiness of the customer as determined by credit checks and evaluations, as well as the customer’s payment history.

 

All amounts billed to customers related to shipping and handling are classified as net product sales, while all costs incurred by us for shipping and handling are classified as cost of sales.

Engineering Services

We provide engineering services to our customers. We recognize revenue from these services when all of the following conditions are met: (1) evidence existed of an arrangement with the customer, typically consisting of a purchase order or contract; (2) our services were performed and risk of loss passed to the customer; (3) we completed all of the necessary terms of the contract; (4) the amount of revenue to which we were entitled was fixed or determinable; and (5) we believed it was probable that we would be able to collect the amount due from the customer. To the extent that one or more of these conditions has not been satisfied, we defer recognition of revenue.  

Fair Value of Financial Instruments

 

Our financial instruments consist principally of cash and cash equivalents, restricted cash, accounts receivable, accounts payable, accrued expenses and debt instruments.  The fair value of our cash equivalents is determined based on quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or Level 1 inputs.  We recognize transfers between Levels 1 through 3 of the fair value hierarchy at the beginning of the reporting period.  We believe that the carrying values of all other financial instruments approximate their current fair values due to their nature and respective durations.

 

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

 

We perform credit evaluations of our customers’ financial condition and limit the amount of credit extended to our customers as deemed necessary, but generally require no collateral. We evaluate the collectability of accounts receivable based on a combination of factors. In cases where we are aware of circumstances that may impair a specific customer’s ability to meet its financial obligations subsequent to the original sale, we will record an allowance against amounts due, and thereby reduce the net recognized receivable to the amount that we reasonably believe will be collected. For all other customers, we record allowances for doubtful accounts based primarily on the length of time the receivables are past due based on the terms of the originating transaction, the current business environment and our historical experience. Uncollectible accounts are charged against the allowance for doubtful accounts when all cost effective commercial means of collection have been exhausted.  Generally, our credit losses have been within our expectations and the provisions established. However, we cannot guarantee that we will continue to experience credit loss rates similar to those we have experienced in the past.

 

Our accounts receivable are highly concentrated among a small number of customers, and a significant change in the liquidity or financial position of one of these customers could have a material adverse effect on the collectability of our accounts receivable, liquidity and future operating results.

 

Inventories

 

We value our inventories at the lower of the actual cost to purchase or manufacture the inventory or the net realizable value of the inventory. Cost is determined on an average cost basis which approximates actual cost on a first-

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in, first-out basis and includes raw materials, labor and manufacturing overhead. At each balance sheet date, we evaluate our ending inventory quantities on hand and record a provision for excess quantities and obsolescence. Among other factors, we consider historical demand and forecasted demand in relation to the inventory on hand, competitiveness of product offerings, market conditions and product life cycles when determining obsolescence and net realizable value. In addition, we consider changes in the market value of components in determining the net realizable value of our inventory. Once established, any write downs are considered permanent adjustments to the cost basis of our excess or obsolete inventories.

 

Impairment of Long-Lived Assets

 

We evaluate the recoverability of the carrying value of long-lived assets held and used in our operations for impairment on at least an annual basis or whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that their carrying value may not be recoverable. When such factors and circumstances exist, we compare the projected undiscounted future net cash flows associated with the related asset or group of assets over their estimated useful lives against their respective carrying amount. These projected future cash flows may vary significantly over time as a result of increased competition, changes in technology, fluctuations in demand, consolidation of our customers and reductions in average selling prices. If the carrying value is determined not to be recoverable from future operating cash flows, the asset is deemed impaired and an impairment loss is recognized to the extent the carrying value exceeds the estimated fair value of the asset. The fair value of the asset or asset group is based on market value when available, or when unavailable, on discounted expected cash flows.  Our management believes there is no impairment of long-lived assets as of December 31, 2016. However, market conditions could change or demand for our products could decrease, which could result in future impairment of long-lived assets.

 

Deferred Financing Costs, Debt Discount and Detachable Debt-Related Warrants

 

Costs incurred to issue debt are deferred and recorded as a reduction to the debt balance in the accompanying consolidated balance sheets. We amortize debt issuance costs over the expected term of the related debt using the effective interest method. Debt discounts relate to the relative fair value of any warrants issued in conjunction with the debt are also recorded as a reduction to the debt balance and accreted over the expected term of the debt to interest expense using the effective interest method.

 

Warranty Liability

 

We offer product warranties generally ranging from one to three years, depending on the product and negotiated terms of any purchase agreements with our customers. Such warranties require us to repair or replace defective product returned to us during the warranty period at no cost to the customer. Warranties are not offered on sales of excess inventory. We record an estimate for warranty‑related costs at the time of sale based on our historical and estimated future product return rates and expected repair or replacement costs. While such costs have historically been consistent between periods and within our expectations and the provisions established, unexpected changes in failure rates could have a material adverse impact on us, requiring additional warranty reserves, and adversely affecting our gross profit and gross margins.

 

Stock-Based Compensation

 

We account for equity issuances to non-employees in accordance with FASB ASC Topic 505.  All transactions in which goods or services are the consideration received for the issuance of equity instruments are accounted for based on the fair value of the consideration received or the fair value of the equity instrument issued, whichever is more reliably measurable. The measurement date used to determine the estimated fair value of the equity instrument issued is the earlier of the date on which the third-party performance is complete or the date on which it is probable that performance will occur.

 

In accordance with FASB ASC Topic 718, employee and director stock-based compensation expense recognized during the period is based on the value of the portion of stock-based payment awards that is ultimately expected to vest during the period.  Given that stock-based compensation expense recognized in the consolidated

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statements of operations is based on awards ultimately expected to vest, it has been reduced for estimated forfeitures. FASB ASC Topic 718 requires forfeitures to be estimated at the time of grant and revised, if necessary, in subsequent periods if actual forfeitures differ from those estimates. Our estimated average forfeiture rates are based on historical forfeiture experience and estimated future forfeitures.

 

The fair value of common stock option awards to employees and directors is calculated using the Black-Scholes option pricing model.  The Black-Scholes model requires subjective assumptions regarding future stock price volatility and expected time to exercise, along with assumptions about the risk-free interest rate and expected dividends, all of which affect the estimated fair values of our common stock option awards. The expected term of options granted is calculated as the average of the weighted vesting period and the contractual expiration date of the option.  This calculation is based on the safe harbor method permitted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) in instances where the vesting and exercise terms of options granted meet certain conditions and where limited historical exercise data is available.  The expected volatility is based on the historical volatility of our common stock.  The risk-free rate selected to value any particular grant is based on the U.S. Treasury rate that corresponds to the expected term of the grant effective as of the date of the grant. The expected dividend assumption is based on our history and management’s expectations regarding dividend payouts. We evaluate the assumptions used to value our common stock option awards on a quarterly basis. If factors change and we employ different assumptions, stock- based compensation expense may differ significantly from what we have recorded in prior periods.  Compensation expense for common stock option awards with graded vesting schedules is recognized on a straight-line basis over the requisite service period for the last separately vesting portion of the award, provided that the accumulated cost recognized as of any date at least equals the value of the vested portion of the award.

 

We recognize the fair value of restricted stock awards issued to employees and outside directors as stock-based compensation expense on a straight-line basis over the vesting period for the last separately vesting portion of the awards.  Fair value is determined as the difference between the closing price of our common stock on the grant date and the purchase price of the restricted stock award, if any, reduced by expected forfeitures.

 

If there are any modifications or cancellations of the underlying vested or unvested stock-based awards, we may be required to accelerate, increase or cancel any remaining unearned stock-based compensation expense, or record additional expense for vested stock-based awards.  Future stock-based compensation expense and unearned stock- based compensation may increase to the extent that we grant additional common stock options or other stock-based awards.

 

Income Taxes

 

Deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized to reflect the estimated future tax effects of future deductible or taxable amounts attributable to events that have been recognized on a cumulative basis in the consolidated financial statements, calculated at enacted tax rates for expected periods of realization. We regularly review our deferred tax assets for recoverability and establish a valuation allowance, when determined necessary, based on historical taxable income, projected future taxable income, and the expected timing of the reversals of existing temporary differences. Because we have operated at a loss for an extended period of time, we did not recognize deferred tax assets related to losses incurred in 2016 or 2015.  In the future, if we realize a deferred tax asset that currently carries a valuation allowance, we may record an income tax benefit or a reduction to income tax expense in the period of such realization.

 

FASB ASC Topic 740 prescribes a recognition threshold and measurement requirement for the financial statement recognition of a tax position that has been taken or is expected to be taken on a tax return and also provides guidance on de-recognition, classification, interest and penalties, accounting in interim periods, disclosure, and transition. Under FASB ASC Topic 740 we may only recognize or continue to recognize tax positions that meet a “more likely than not” threshold.

 

The application of tax laws and regulations is subject to legal and factual interpretation, judgment and uncertainty. Tax laws and regulations may change as a result of changes in fiscal policy, changes in legislation, the evolution of regulations and court rulings. Therefore, the actual liability for U.S. or foreign taxes may be materially different from our estimates, which could require us to record additional tax liabilities or to reduce previously recorded tax liabilities, as applicable.

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Interest Expense

 

Interest expense consists primarily of interest associated with our issued debt, including fees related to the term loans, accretion of debt discounts and amortization of debt issuance costs.  We recognize the accretion of debt discounts and the amortization of interest costs using the effective interest method.

 

Results of Operations

 

Year Ended December 31, 2016 Compared to the Year Ended January 2, 2016

 

The following table presents each line item of our consolidated statements of operations as a percentage of total net revenues for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

    

December 31,

    

January 2,

 

    

 

 

2016

 

2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Net product sales

 

65

%  

86

%  

 

NRE revenues

 

35

 

14

 

 

Total net revenues

 

100

 

100

 

 

Cost of sales

 

62

 

74

 

 

Gross profit

 

38

 

26

 

 

Operating expenses:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research and development

 

32

 

75

 

 

Intellectual property legal fees

 

16

 

70

 

 

Selling, general and administrative

 

46

 

98

 

 

Total operating expenses

 

94

 

243

 

 

Operating loss

 

(56)

 

(217)

 

 

Other expense, net:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interest expense, net

 

(3)

 

(26)

 

 

Other income (expense), net

 

2

 

(13)

 

 

Total other expense, net

 

(1)

 

(39)

 

 

Loss before provision for income tax

 

(57)

 

(256)

 

 

Provision for income taxes

 

-

 

-

 

 

Net loss

 

(57)

%  

(256)

%  

 

 

Net Product Sales, NRE Revenues, Cost of Sales and Gross Profit

 

The following table presents net product sales, NRE revenues, cost of sales and gross profit for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

 

 

%

 

 

 

2016

 

2016

 

 

Change

 

Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

Net product sales

 

$

12,798

 

$

6,869

 

 

$
5,929

 

86

%

NRE revenues

 

 

6,857

 

 

1,143

 

 

5,714

 

100

%

Total net revenues

 

 

19,655

 

 

8,012

 

 

11,643

 

145

%

Cost of sales

 

 

12,259

 

 

5,915

 

 

6,344

 

107

%

Gross profit

 

$

7,396

 

$

2,097

 

 

$
5,299

 

253

%

Gross margin

 

 

37.6%

 

 

26.2%

 

 

11.5

%

 

 

 

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Net Product Sales.   

 

The increase in our net product sales for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from increases of $6.3 million in sales of NAND flash, primarily sourced from Samsung under our JDLA and $1.5 million in sales of other small outline dual in-line memory module (“SODIMM”) and registered dual in-line memory module (“RDIMM”) products, partially offset by decreases of $1.3 million in sales of our NVvault product, and $0.5 million in sales of our Planar-X and other VLP products. Our two largest customers in 2015, which accounted for 27% and 10% of net product sales, respectively, made significantly fewer purchases and contributed a significantly smaller portion of our net product sales in 2016, while our largest customer in 2016, which accounted for 16% of net product sales in 2016 was a new customer in 2016 and made no purchases and contributed no net product sales in 2015.  

 

NRE Revenues .  The increase in NRE revenues for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted from the recognition of revenues from the NRE fee under our JDLA with Samsung entered into in November 2015.

 

Cost of Sales, Gross Profit and Gross Margin.    The increase in our cost of sales in 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from increased costs associated with our increased product sales between periods. The increase in our gross margin in 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from NRE revenues from the JDLA, partially offset by a decrease in gross margin from our net product sales as a result of a change between periods in the mix of our products sold, marked by reduced sales of our higher margin first-generation NVvault product, which decreased from 20% of our net product sales in 2015 to 0.4% of our net product sales in 2016, and increased sales of other lower margin products, including primarily resales of certain Samsung products, which increased from 0% of our net product sales in 2015 to 21% of our net product sales in 2016.

 

Research and Development

 

The following table presents research and development expenses for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

 

 

%

 

 

 

2016

 

2016

 

Change

 

Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

Research and development

 

$

6,287

 

$

6,049

 

$

238

 

4

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The increase in research and development expenses for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from increases of $0.6 million in product research expenses and $0.07 million in headcount, overhead and travel expenses, partially offset by a decrease of $0.4 million in professional and outside service fees.

 

Intellectual Property Legal Fees

 

The following table presents intellectual property legal fees for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

 

 

%

 

 

    

2016

    

2016

    

Change

    

Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

Intellectual property legal fees

 

$

3,110

 

$

5,588

 

$

(2,478)

 

(44)

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The decrease in intellectual property legal fees for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from a decrease in legal fees incurred in 2015 for trade secret litigation.

 

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Selling, General and Administrative

 

The following table presents selling, general and administrative expenses for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

 

 

%

 

 

 

2016

 

2016

 

 

Change

 

Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

Selling, general and administrative

 

$

9,033

 

$

7,841

 

$

1,192

 

15

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The increase in selling, general and administrative expenses for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from increases of $0.9 million in headcount, overhead and travel expenses, $0.2 million in bank charges and bad debt expense, $0.07 million in commission expense and $0.05 million in outside service fees.

 

Other Expense, Net

 

The following table presents other expense, net for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

 

 

%

 

 

 

2016

 

2016

 

Change

 

Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

Interest expense, net

 

$

(578)

 

$

(2,064)

 

$

(1,486)

 

(72)

%

Other income (expense), net

 

 

386

 

 

(1,081)

 

 

(1,467)

 

(136)

%

Total other expense, net

 

$

(192)

 

$

(3,145)

 

$

(2,953)

 

(94)

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The decrease in interest expense, net, for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from (i) the lower interest rate (2%) on our convertible debt from SVIC, which was issued in November 2015, as compared to our higher interest rate (11%) loan from our former lender, Fortress Credit Opportunities I LP (“Fortress”), which was repaid in November 2015, and (ii) the accelerated amortization of debt discount and debt issuance costs associated with repayment of our loan to Fortress in November 2015.

 

The decrease in other income (expense), net, for 2016 as compared to 2015 resulted primarily from a reversal of an engineering accrual expense for $0.5 million for work that was not billed in 2016 and the receipt of

$1.5 million in 2015 in insurance proceeds as compensation for damages to our facility in the PRC, partially offset by (i) our payment of $0.9 million associated with our certain legal proceedings against Diablo Technologies (See Note 7 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this report), (ii) a $1.0 million lump sum payment in connection with our termination of our loan from Fortress, and (iii) and $0.8 million in warrant expense associated with amending certain terms of existing warrants and issuing new warrants in connection with the termination of our loan from Fortress.

 

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Income Tax Provision.

 

The following table presents the provision for income taxes for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

 

 

%

 

 

    

2016

    

2016

    

Change

    

Change

 

 

 

(in thousands, except percentages)

Provision for income taxes

 

$

5

 

$

1

 

$

4

 

400

%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The federal statutory rate was 34% for 2016 and 35% in 2015.  In both 2016 and 2015, we continued to provide a full valuation allowance against our net deferred tax assets, which consist primarily of net operating loss carryforwards.  In 2016 and 2015, our effective tax rate differed from the 34% and 35%, respectively, statutory rate primarily due to the valuation allowance on newly generated loss carryforwards.  For further discussion, see Note 6 to our consolidated financial statements included in Part II, Item 8 of this report.

 

Liquidity and Capital Resources

 

Liquidity generally refers to the ability to generate adequate amounts of cash to meet our cash needs. We require cash to fund our operating expenses and working capital requirements, including research and development and intellectual property litigation fees, to make required payments of principal and interest under our outstanding debt instruments and, to a lesser extent, to fund capital expenditures. We have historically financed our operations primarily through issuances of equity and debt securities and revenues generated from operations, including product sales and NRE revenues from the JDLA. We have also funded our operations with a revolving line of credit and term loans under a bank credit facility and, to a lesser extent, equipment leasing arrangements.

 

Working Capital and Cash and Cash Equivalents.

 

The following table presents working capital and cash and cash equivalents:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

    

2016

    

2016

 

 

(in thousands)

Working capital

 

$

13,043

 

$

11,981

Cash and cash equivalents(1)

 

$

9,476

 

$

19,684

 


(1)

Included in working capital

 

Our working capital increased in 2016 primarily as a result of $10.3 million in net proceeds from our issuance of common stock in the 2016 Offering, as defined and discussed under “Capital Resources” below, partially offset by the use of cash and cash equivalents to fund our operations and the recognition of $6.9 million of deferred revenue related to NRE fees received under our JDLA with Samsung.

 

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Cash Provided by and Used in the Years Ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016.

 

The following table summarizes our cash flows for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year Ended

 

 

 

December 31,

 

January 2,

 

 

    

2016

    

2016

 

 

 

(in thousands)

 

Net cash provided by (used in):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating activities

 

$

(20,794)

 

$

(9,334)

 

Investing activities

 

 

(346)

 

 

(361)

 

Financing activities

 

 

10,932

 

 

18,339

 

Net change in cash and cash equivalents

 

$

(10,208)

 

$

8,644

 

 

Operating Activities

 

Net cash used in operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2016 was primarily the result of a net loss of $11.2 million and $12.0 million in net cash used by changes in operating assets and liabilities, primarily from the recognition of $6.9 million of deferred revenue in 2016 and the increase in our product sales in 2016, which required us to increase inventory levels, accounts receivable and our restricted cash (to secure a portion of our line of credit with Samsung), partially offset by approximately $2.4 million in net non-cash operating expenses, mainly comprised of depreciation and amortization, amortization of debt discount and debt issuance costs and stock-based compensation.

 

Net cash used in operating activities for the year ended January 2, 2016 was primarily the result of a net loss of approximately $20.5 million offset by (i) approximately $6.7 million in net cash provided by changes in operating assets and liabilities, primarily deferred revenue and (ii) approximately $4.5 million in net non-cash operating expenses, mainly comprised of depreciation and amortization, amortization of debt discount and debt issuance costs, issuance of warrants and stock-based compensation.

 

Investing Activities

 

Net cash used in investing activities for the years ended December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016 was primarily the result of the purchase of $0.3 million and $0.4 million of property and equipment, respectively.

 

Financing Activities

 

Net cash provided by financing activities for the year ended December 31, 2016 was primarily the result of (i) net proceeds of $10.3 million from the 2016 Offering, as defined and discussed under “Capital Resources” below, (ii) net proceeds of $0.7 million from borrowings under our line of credit and (iii) net proceeds of $0.2 million from cash exercises of equity awards, partially offset by $0.3 million in payments on debt.

 

Net cash provided by financing activities for the year ended January 2, 2016 was primarily the result of net proceeds of $18.6 million from the issuance of long-term debt and net proceeds of $10.5 million from the 2015 Offering, as defined and discussed under “Capital Resources” below, partially offset by payments of $10.8 million on long-term debt.

 

Capital Resources

 

Our sources of cash have historically consisted of revenues from our operations, including product sales and NRE revenues from the JDLA with Samsung, debt and equity financings, a revolving line of credit and term loans under a bank credit facility and, to a lesser extent, equipment leasing arrangements.

 

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SVB Credit Agreement

 

On October 31, 2009, we entered into the SVB Credit Agreement, which provides that we may borrow up to the lesser of (i) 80% of eligible accounts receivable, or (ii) $5.0 million, subject to certain adjustments as set forth in the SVB Credit Agreement, and expires April 1, 2018.

 

On December 31, 2016 we had outstanding borrowings under the SVB Credit Agreement of $0.7 million. We made no borrowings under the SVB Credit Agreement in the year ended January 2, 2016.  As of December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016 we had borrowing availability under the SVB Credit Agreement of approximately $0.8 million and $0.5 million, respectively.

 

2015 Offering

 

On February 24, 2015, we completed a registered firm commitment underwritten public offering (the “2015 Offering”), pursuant to which we sold 8,846,154 shares of our common stock at a price to the public of $1.30 per share. The net proceeds to us from the 2015 Offering were $10.5 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and estimated offering expenses paid by us.

 

SVIC Note and SVIC Warrant

 

On November 18, 2015, we issued to SVIC the SVIC Note and the SVIC Warrant. The SVIC Note has an original principal amount of $15.0 million, accrues interest at a rate of 2.0% per year, is due and payable in full on December 31, 2021, and is convertible into shares of our common stock at a conversion price of $1.25 per share, subject to certain adjustments, on the maturity date of the SVIC Note. The SVIC Warrant grants SVIC a right to purchase up to 2,000,000 shares of our common stock at an exercise price of $0.30 per share, subject to certain adjustments, is only exercisable in the event we exercise our right to redeem the SVIC Note prior to its maturity date, and expires on December 31, 2025.  Proceeds from the SVIC Note were used to repay our former loan from Fortress.

 

2016 Offering

 

On September 23, 2016, we completed a registered firm commitment underwritten public offering (the “2016 Offering”), pursuant to which we sold 9,200,000 shares of our common stock at a price to the public of $1.25 per share.  The net proceeds to us from the 2016 Offering were approximately $10.3 million, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses paid or payable by us.

 

Equipment Leasing Arrangements

 

We have in the past utilized equipment leasing arrangements to finance certain capital expenditures. Although equipment leases did not contribute material cash during the periods covered by this report, they continue to be a financing alternative that we may pursue in the future.

 

Sufficiency of Cash Balances and Potential Sources of Additional Capital

 

We believe our existing cash balance, together with cash provided by our operations and borrowing availability under the SVB Credit Agreement, net of cash expected to be used in operations, will be sufficient to meet our anticipated cash needs for at least the next 12 months. Our capital requirements will depend on many factors, including, among others: the acceptance of, and demand for, our products; our levels of net product sales and any other revenues we may receive, including NRE, license, royalty or other fees; the extent and timing of any investments in developing, marketing and launching new or enhanced products or technologies; the costs of developing, improving and maintaining our internal design, testing and manufacturing processes; the costs associated with defending and enforcing our intellectual property rights; and the nature and timing of acquisitions and other strategic transactions in which we participate, if any.

Although we expect to rely in the near term on our existing cash balance, cash provided by our operations and borrowing availability under the SVB Credit Agreement, our estimates of our operating revenues and expenses and

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working capital requirements could be incorrect, and we may use our cash resources faster than we anticipate. Further, some or all of our ongoing or planned investments may not be successful and could result in further losses. Until we can generate sufficient revenues to finance our cash requirements from our operations, which we may never do, we may need to increase our liquidity and capital resources by one or more measures, which may include, among others, reducing operating expenses, restructuring our balance sheet by negotiating with creditors and vendors, entering into strategic partnerships or alliances, raising additional financing through the issuance of debt, equity, or convertible securities or pursuing alternative sources of capital, such as through asset or technology sales or licenses. We may not be able to obtain capital when needed, on terms acceptable to us or at all.

Inadequate working capital would have a material adverse effect on our business and operations and could cause us to fail to execute our business plan, fail to take advantage of future opportunities or fail to respond to competitive pressures or customer requirements. A lack of sufficient funding may also require us to significantly modify our business model and/or reduce or cease our operations, which could include implementing cost-cutting measures or delaying, scaling back or eliminating some or all of our ongoing and planned investments in corporate infrastructure, research and development projects, business development initiatives and sales and marketing activities, among other activities. Modification of our business model and operations could result in an impairment of assets, the effects of which cannot be determined. Furthermore, if we continue to issue equity or convertible debt securities to raise additional funds, our existing stockholders may experience significant dilution, and the new equity or debt securities may have rights, preferences and privileges that are superior to those of our existing stockholders. If we incur additional debt, it may increase our leverage relative to our earnings or to our equity capitalization or have other material consequences. If we pursue asset or technology sales or licenses to obtain additional capital, our operational capacity may be limited and any revenue streams or business plans that are dependent on the sold or licensed assets may be eliminated. Moreover, we may incur substantial costs in pursuing any future capital-raising transactions, including investment banking, legal and accounting fees, printing and distribution expenses and other similar costs, which would reduce the benefit of the capital received from the transaction.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements.

 

We do not have any off-balance sheet arrangements that have or are reasonably likely to have a current or future effect on our financial condition, changes in financial condition, revenues or expenses, results of operations, liquidity, capital expenditure or capital resources that is material to investors.

.

Item 7A.  Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

 

Not applicable.

 

Item 8.  Financial Statements and Supplementary Dat a

 

The financial statements and supplementary data required by this item are included immediately following the signature page of this report and are incorporated herein by reference.

 

 

Item 9.  Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosur e

 

None.

 

Item 9A.  Controls and Procedure s

 

Disclosure Controls and Procedures

 

Our management, with the participation of our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of our disclosure controls and procedures, as such term is defined in Rule 13a-15(e) under the Exchange Act, as of the end of the period covered by this report. Based on this evaluation, our principal executive officer and our principal financial officer concluded that our disclosure controls and procedures were

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effective as of December 31, 2016.  Our disclosure controls and procedures are designed to ensure that information required to be disclosed by us in reports we file or submit under the Exchange Act is recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the SEC’s rules and forms, and is accumulated and communicated to our management, including our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, as appropriate to allow timely decisions regarding required disclosures.

 

Management’s Annual Report on Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

 

Our management is responsible for establishing and maintaining adequate internal control over financial reporting, as such term is defined in Rule 13a-15(f) under the Exchange Act. Our management, with the participation of our principal executive officer and principal financial officer, conducted an evaluation of the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting as of December 31, 2016 based on the criteria set forth in the 2013 Internal Control—Integrated Framework issued by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. Based on this evaluation, our management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective as of December 31, 2016.

 

This report does not include an attestation report of our independent registered public accounting firm regarding our internal control over financial reporting, in accordance with applicable SEC rules that permit us to provide only management’s report in this report.

 

Changes in Internal Control Over Financial Reporting

 

There were no changes in our internal control over financial reporting during our most recently completed fiscal quarter that have materially affected, or are reasonably likely to materially affect, our internal control over financial reporting.

 

Inherent Limitations on Internal Control

 

A control system, no matter how well conceived and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met. Further, the benefits of controls must be considered relative to their costs. Because of the inherent limitations in all control systems, no evaluation of controls can provide absolute assurance that all control issues and instances of fraud, if any, have been detected. These inherent limitations include the realities that judgments in decision-making can be faulty and that breakdowns can occur because of simple errors. Additionally, controls can be circumvented by the individual acts of some persons, by collusion of two or more people, or by management override of the controls. The design of any system of controls is also based in part upon certain assumptions about the likelihood of future events, and any design may not succeed in achieving its stated goals under all potential conditions. Because of the inherent limitations in a cost-effective control system, misstatements due to error or fraud may occur and not be detected.

 

In addition, projections of any evaluation of effectiveness to future periods are subject to risks that controls may become inadequate because of changes in conditions or deterioration in the degree of compliance with the controls.

 

Item 9B.  Other Informatio n

 

None.

 

PART II I

 

Item 10.  Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governanc e

 

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference to the definitive proxy statement for our 2017 annual meeting of stockholders or an amendment to this report, in either case to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

 

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Item 11.  Executive Compensatio n

 

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference to the definitive proxy statement for our 2017 annual meeting of stockholders or an amendment to this report, in either case to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

 

Item 12.  Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matter s

 

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference to the definitive proxy statement for our 2017 annual meeting of stockholders or an amendment to this report, in either case to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

 

Item 13.  Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independenc e

 

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference to the definitive proxy statement for our 2017 annual meeting of stockholders or an amendment to this report, in either case to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

 

Item 14.  Principal Accounting Fees and Service s

 

The information required by this item is incorporated by reference to the definitive proxy statement for our 2017 annual meeting of stockholders or an amendment to this report, in either case to be filed with the SEC within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.

 

PART IV

 

Item 15.  Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedule s

 

(a)(1)  Consolidated Financial Statements.

 

The following financial statements are included immediately following the signature page hereof and are filed as part of this report:

 

 

All financial statement schedules have been omitted, as they are not required, not applicable, or the required information is otherwise included.

 

(a)(3) Exhibits.

 

The information required by this Item 15(a)(3) is set forth on the Exhibit Index that immediately follows the last page of this report and is incorporated herein by reference.

 

Item 16. Form 10-K Summar y.

 

We have elected not to provide summary information.

 

 

 

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SIGNATURE S

 

Pursuant to the requirements of Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the registrant has duly caused this report to be signed on its behalf by the undersigned, thereunto duly authorized.

 

Date:  March 31, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Netlist, Inc.

 

 

 

 

 

By:

/s/ Chun K. Hong

 

 

Chun K. Hong

 

 

President, Chief Executive Officer and

 

 

Chairman of the Board

 

POWER OF ATTORNEY

 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, each person whose signature appears below constitutes and appoints Chun K. Hong and Gail Sasaki as his or her true and lawful agent, proxy and attorney-in-fact, each acting alone, with full power of substitution and resubstitution, for him and in his name, place and stead, in any and all capacities, to (i) act on and sign any amendments to this Annual Report on Form 10-K, with exhibits thereto and other documents in connection therewith, (ii) act on and sign such certificates, instruments, agreements and other documents as may be necessary or appropriate in connection therewith, and in each case file the same with the Securities and Exchange Commission, hereby approving, ratifying and confirming all that such agent, proxy and attorney-in-fact or any of his substitutes may lawfully do or cause to be done by virtue thereof.

 

Pursuant to the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, this report has been signed below by the following persons on behalf of the registrant and in the capacities and on the dates indicated:

 

Signature

    

Title

    

Date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Chun K. Hong

 

President, Chief Executive Officer and

 

 

Chun K. Hong

 

Chairman of the Board (Principal

 

March 31, 2017

 

 

Executive Officer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Gail Sasaki

 

Vice President and Chief Financial

 

 

Gail Sasaki

 

Officer (Principal Financial Officer and

 

March 31, 2017

 

 

Principal Accounting Officer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Charles F. Cargile

 

Director

 

March 31, 2017

Charles F. Cargile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Jun S. Cho

 

Director

 

March 31, 2017

Jun S. Cho

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Vincent Sheeran

 

Director

 

March 31, 2017

Vincent Sheeran

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Blake A. Welcher

 

Director

 

March 31, 2017

Blake A. Welcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/s/ Jeff Benck

 

Director

 

March 31, 2017

Jeff Benck

 

 

 

 

 

 

55


 

INDEX TO CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL STATEMENTS

 

 

 

F-1


 

REPORT OF INDEPENDENT REGISTERED PUBLIC ACCOUNTING FIR M

 

Board of Directors and Stockholders

Netlist, Inc.

 

We have audited the accompanying consolidated balance sheets of Netlist, Inc. and subsidiaries (the “Company”) as of December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016, and the related consolidated statements of operations, stockholders’ (deficit) equity and cash flows for the years then ended. These consolidated financial statements are the responsibility of the Company’s management. Our responsibility is to express an opinion on these consolidated financial statements based on our audits.

 

We conducted our audits in accordance with the standards of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (United States). Those standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the consolidated financial statements are free of material misstatement. The Company is not required to have, nor were we engaged to perform, an audit on its internal control over financial reporting. Our audits included consideration of internal control over financial reporting as a basis for designing audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the Company’s internal control over financial reporting. Accordingly, we express no such opinion. An audit includes examining, on a test basis, evidence supporting the amounts and disclosures in the consolidated financial statements. An audit also includes assessing the accounting principles used and significant estimates made by management, as well as evaluating the overall consolidated financial statement presentation. We believe that our audits provide a reasonable basis for our opinion.

 

In our opinion, the consolidated financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the consolidated financial position of Netlist, Inc. and subsidiaries as of December 31, 2016 and January 2, 2016, and the consolidated results of their operations and their cash flows for the years then ended, in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

 

/s/ KMJ Corbin & Company LLP

Costa Mesa, California

March 31, 2017

F-2


 

NETLIST, INC. AND SUBSIDIARIES

 

Consolidated Balance Sheet s

 

(in thousands, except par value)