KAIST takes Samsung to court over FinFET patent infringement

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The state-run institute claims Samsung, Qualcomm and Global Foundries have been using its FinFET technology without permission.

Samsung Electronics is facing a patent lawsuit from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in the United States.

The state-run research institute confirmed to The Korea Herald that its intellectually property management arm, KAIST IP, has sued Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm and Global Foundries in a Texas court over the use of KAIST's FinFET technology without permission.

In its lawsuit, KAIST IP claimed Samsung Electronics did not show interest in the 3D FinFET technologies when it was presented back in 2001. FinFET was first developed by Lee Jong-ho, a professor of Seoul National University, in partnership with KAIST.

According to the research institute, the technology was proposed to both Samsung and Intel, and Samsung invited Lee to lecture its engineers. Intel obtained licenses of the technology and released its product, MOSFET, in 2011, while Samsung turned down the proposal but developed a technology identical to FinFET.

“Samsung was able to reduce the development time and cost by copying Lee’s invention without cost. (Samsung) has continued copying Lee’s invention without authority or proper compensation,” a KAIST IP official told The Korea Herald.

Intel is providing royalties to KAIST for using the patent.

Aside from Samsung, KAIST IP is also suing Global Foundries, which is using the technology through a license agreement with Samsung, as well as chip designer Qualcomm, which is a client of both Samsung and Global Foundries, according to The Korea Times.

The institute said it is also planning to file a lawsuit against Taiwanese chipmaker TSMC "as soon as it secures evidence of patent infringement."

KAIST was set up in 1971 with the aim of improving research and innovation of South Korea's science and technology, and over the years, researchers at the state-run institute have been steadily coming out with innovations, including one that allows non-magnetic materials to have magnetic properties as well as a continuous roll-processing technology that transfers and packages flexible large-scale integrated circuits.

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