A federal jury in Texas ordered Samsung Electronics to pay $400 million to a South Korean university for infringing one of fundamental patents related to double gate FinFET transistors. The same jury found that GlobalFoundries and Qualcomm had infringed the same patent, but the two companies were not ordered to pay damages.

The U.S.-based licensing arm of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) sued Samsung in Marshall, Texas, accusing the world’s largest maker of chips of using its IP illegally. Samsung said that it worked with the university to develop FinFET-related technologies, but KAIST indicated that the chipmaker was “dismissive of the FinFET research” initially and believed that the tech would fail. The university says that Samsung changed its mind about FinFET after Intel licensed the invention. Meanwhile, KAIST alleges that Samsung did not pay for using the technology.

The jury reportedly sided with the South Korean university and ordered Samsung to pay $400 million for infringing the U.S. Patent 6,885,055. In fact, the jury found that Samsung’s infringement was intentional, which means that the judge could trebel the damage award to $1.2 billion. It is noteworthy that the jury also found that GlobalFoundries (which licenses Samsung’s 14LPP process technology) also infringes KAIST patent. Furthermore, Qualcomm was also found to be infringing the patent because its chips are made by Samsung Foundry and GlobalFoundries.

Samsung was naturally disappointed by the decision and said it would consider an appeal.

“We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that is reasonable, including an appeal,” Samsung reportedly said in a statement.

Sources: Bloomberg, JUSTIA.

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  • JoeyJoJo123 - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    >South Korean University suing South Korean Samsung
    >Took the case to Marshall, Texas
    >Hey that sounds familiar
    >Turns out Marshall, Texas is where all the patent trolls like to take their patent cases, since it's been proven that residents of Marshall, Texas side with patent trolls much more often than any other court in the world.
  • boozed - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    And surely it's only a coincidence that the two American companies involved in the suit avoided damages...
  • RMSe17 - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    @boozed - probably because they weren't directly involved, they licensed technology from Samsung, or were manufactured by Samsung, so they had no idea Samsung was stealing some IP for that technology.
  • Samus - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    Keep in mind one American company (Intel) avoided litigation by licensing the IP years before all of this went down with Samsung.

    If Intel licensed it, it was probably worth licensing. Everyone else was just playing with fire.
  • BurntMyBacon - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    Global Foundries is owned by ATIC, a high tech investment company owned by Mubadala Investment Company PJSC, a wholly owned investment vehicle of the government of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Not sure how American they are other than having their headquarters in Santa Clara.

    Perhaps GF should owe damages, but this isn't clear. They are using the technology, but they licensed it through Samsung. The fact that Samsung did not actually have the authority to license the technology was not known at the time as there was no ruling until now. Samsung is now guilty of selling IP that they did not own, but I'm not sure GF can be held responsible for buying it. It would make more sense for KAIST to press Samsung for at least some of the licensing fees GF paid them. Going forward, though, I think GF had better adjust their licensing agreements to include KAIST.

    As to Qualcomm, I see no reason that they should owe damages on this one. They were in no way responsible for Samsung or GF's use of FinFETs. They were simply trying to get their products fabricated. The FinFET nodes were among the nodes offered and made the most sense for some of their products. They had no way of knowing the tech offered was illegal and no control over the node even if they did.

    Another company that could be legitimately infringing on their IP is TSMC. Does TSMC have a license to use the tech? I don't recall hearing about TSMC licensing the technology from anyone, but I never heard that Intel did it until now either.
  • melgross - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    Since it’s Samsung that’s doing the violation, they have to pay the damages. The court noted which companies were having chips made using the technology. They shouldn’t have to pay the fine.

    This is similar, in a way, to the claims Qualcomm is making against Apple. Chip makers are licensing Qualcomm technology, but qualcomm wants Apple to pay for the patents. They gave Apple $1 billion a year to cover, but stopped when Apple testified in a couple of cases against them, and they and Apple are suing each other.

    But Samsung is especially egregious about this. It’s now been four times they were found to be price fixing products, and were fined well over a billion for those times. The cases with Apple, which Samsung lost around the world, and several large cases they are involved with now with different companies.

    In addition their chairmen have now been convicted three times of bribery, the latest resulting in the president of S Korea being thrown out of Office too. It’s basically a criminal organization, which is why I haven’t bought anything from them in years.
  • close - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    @melgross: "The same jury found that GlobalFoundries and Qualcomm had infringed the same patent"
    "the jury also found that GlobalFoundries (which licenses Samsung’s 14LPP process technology) also infringes KAIST patent. Furthermore, Qualcomm was also found to be infringing the patent because its chips are made by Samsung Foundry and GlobalFoundries."

    So they were found infringing the patent by making chips using it but you say they don't pay fines because they don't make chips made using the technology?
  • echoe - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    they don't directly violate the patents. they make those chips using samsung as an intermediary (qualcomm), or getting licensing from samsung in order to use that patent - licensing that they didn't know did not fully cover the process until now (GlobalFoundries).
    the prior commenter said the companies /were/ having chips made using the tech. but they aren't directly violating this. they paid samsung to get licensing for the very parts that this violation concerns.
  • melgross - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    But only because they have Samsung build their chips with Samsung technology.
  • FullmetalTitan - Thursday, June 21, 2018 - link

    Qualcomm is a partner of Samsung Foundry, so their chips are made with w/e process tech Samsung was offering to foundry partners to build on (the infringed patent is base to the current tech). Global Foundries licensed Samsung 14LPP process because their own first gen fintech was behind schedule.

    In this case first offense was by Samsung LSI, and customers of said company are not liable for the infringement.

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