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Spintronics or Just Spin?

Ladies and gentlemen, in this corner, we have NVE (Nasdaq: NVEC  ) , owner of the patented spintronics technology and a $165 million market cap.

In the other corner, we have heavyweights IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , Infineon (NYSE: IFX  ) , and Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) , which have several hundred billion dollars of market cap and a strong desire to be first in the universal random access memory (RAM) market.

Does the little guy have a fighter's chance?

Last week, W.D. Crotty highlighted the potential of NVE's spintronics, whose nanoscale structures are used for Magnetoresistive RAM (MRAM), the so-called "holy grail" of memory, which could let us switch on our computers as quickly as we do our TVs and also greatly improve battery life in cell phones and laptops.

Spectators in this bout aren't giving NVE much of a shot, building a large short-sell interest in the company and shouting down its claims. Led by the very vocal Asensio & Co. (its recent headline: "NVEC Hypes Yet Another Meaningless Patent"), this horde has accused NVE of pretty much everything under the sun. To muddy the pond even further, Asensio has gone after Merrill Lynch (NYSE: MER  ) for including NVE in its recently launched Nanotech Index Fund, sending several letters to the New York attorney general.

And Asensio is not alone. The company, whose site is "devoted to investor advocacy and critical commentary," and others have a whopping 85% of NVE's float held short as of July 4.

Citing his role as CEO of a public company, Daniel Baker responded by saying he didn't want to engage in a "food fight" with the short sellers. But he and his fellow directors have not helped their cause by selling high percentages of their holdings at the top of price spikes. Nor has their licensee Cypress Semiconductor (NYSE: CY  ) helped dispel allegations of bogus science when, after taking an equity interest in NVE, Cypress sold all its holdings.

In January, Baker was given more than 60,000 shares in options, nearly 3% of the float, at a price of $6.58, which he promptly sold at the market price of $57.00. He could afford some expensive caviar to throw should he wish to change his mind and engage in a food fight.

In the midst of all these accusations and counteraccusations, it is difficult to know who is right and who is wrong. Until NVE management or its licensees come out with public validation of the spintronics technology, it will remain murky.

Do you dream of a nanotech world, or just the profits this nascent science can reap? Share your views with other Fools on the Nanotechnology discussion board.

Carl Wherrett and John Yelovich do not own any shares of the companies mentioned in this article.

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