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Samsung tip has government investigating KIP

June 12,2018
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has been investigating a Korean company over technology leakage overseas at the request of Samsung Electronics, sources said on Monday.

The probe into KIP, a private company belonging to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, started in April after Samsung Electronics reported the issue to the government. But the issue is complicated by an ongoing lawsuit between KIP and Samsung in the United States.

KIP sued Samsung over mobile transistor intellectual property, and critics have suggested that Samsung’s recent allegations are an attempt to cloud the issue.

Back in late 2016, the company run by a group of researchers at Kaist filed a suit at a federal court in Texas against Samsung for using its patented technology for mobile 3D transistors, known as fin field effect transistors (FinFET), since 2015. The technology is used to increase the processing speed of smartphones and tablet PCs.

Unlike Samsung, Intel has been paying around 10 billion won ($9.3 million) to use the technology since 2012. KIP demanded that Samsung pay for its use of the technology as well, and a jury is set to hand down the first verdict on the case on June 16.

Samsung, however, has refused to pay for the technology, claiming it was initially developed as part of a state-supported research project. The electronics giant fought back, claiming that KIP leaked the core technologies overseas.

The world’s No. 1 chipmaker asked the ministry to look into whether KIP’s intellectual property fits into one of seven categories that either have technological and economic value in markets at home and abroad or have great growth potential that are stipulated in the Act on Prevention of Divulgence and Protection of Industrial Technology.

The seven designated technologies need state approval before being exported overseas.

While reviewing documents preparing for a trial, Samsung claims it found evidence of a national core technology being leaked abroad without approval from the Commerce Ministry.

FinFET was originally a joint project between Wonkwang University, where Lee Jong-ho, now professor at the department of electrical and computer engineering at Seoul National University, was serving as professor, and Kaist in 2001. Lee patented the technology under his name in Korea and handed it over to KIP later. KIP then transferred the patent to its U.S. branch, which was established in 2016.

“It is hard to conclude whether [the KIP-owned technology] is a core national technology and it is not clear either whether the issue needs to be assessed by a group of experts,” said a ministry official. “We are taking into consideration of various aspects, given the issue could affect the trial.”


BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]