Both sides ready for all-out court battles
In the early 2010s, KAIST IP – an arm of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology – concluded three global tech giants of Intel, Apple and Samsung Electronics had infringed on its patent for FinFet.
In 2001, KAIST IP applied for a domestic patent for FinFet, and expanded this into an international version later. In 2011, it tried to strike patent license deals with the three.
FinFet, a three-dimensional transistor technology, replaced conventional bulk silicon to improve the performance of chips and reduce their power consumption. The features are indispensable to roll out tiny, thin chips for tablets and smartphones.
“Intel was very cooperative, and KAIST IP signed a license deal with it in 2012. Apple and Samsung opted not to do so, and the conflicts have continued for years,” a source familiar with the issue told The Korea News Plus.
“KAIST IP found a happy medium with Apple earlier this year. But Samsung keeps refusing to admit anything. The company seems to want to have a legal battle up to the last minute.”
Indeed, Intel and Apple agreed to settle the differences by paying unspecified amounts to KAIST IP, but Samsung keeps denying that it violated any patent related to FinFet.
“As far as I know, KAIST IP is not supposed to disclose the settlement amounts with Intel and Apple. Otherwise, it would have to pay huge penalties under the non-disclosure agreements,” said the source who asked not to be named.
“Samsung shows no signs of backing off. The company seems to be ready for years of suits, its go-to strategy aimed at exhausting powerless patent holders such as individuals or small-sized outfits.”
In response, Samsung has countered that the firm uses FinFet technology developed by its employees and executives. It claims that its FinFet technology is different from the one for which KAIST IP has the patent rights.
Such a hard-nosed approach may cost Samsung dear as it was judged to have infringed on a patent belonging to KAIST IP last year in the United States. As a result, the tech giant was ordered to pay $400 million.
Early this year, KAIST IP brought Samsung to a U.S. court once again, arguing that the Seoul-based firm keeps infringing on its FinFet technology even after the 2018 ruling.
“When KAIST IP tried to sign a licensing deal with Samsung in the early 2010s, the former asked for a minimal amount, which the latter refused to accept,” the anonymous source said.
“Now, Samsung may have to pay a large amount. As you know, a stitch in time saves nine.”
When contacted, KAIST IP officials refused to comment.