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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  • Spunjji - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    I'd consider that to be a smart move rather than an indication of patent trolling - given that Intel licenced the tech there's a strong implication that it was extremely valuable and therefore it's disingenuous to imply that its originator is a "patent troll".
  • melgross - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

  • r3loaded - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    It took place at a court infamous for being sympathetic to patent trolls, but that does not imply the university is a patent troll, far from it. FinFETs were a genuinely new, revolutionary and non-obvious method of doing transistors on ever-shrinking processes, not some vague "doing X on a computer" patent. The fact that Intel took out a license for a technology that first appeared in their 22nm products also gives them a very strong case for their patent having merit.
  • lilmoe - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    That's a relatively small amount for FinFet. Just pay up Sammy. They should make the American companies pay too, but who are we kidding...
  • 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.

    I could see GF perhaps owing damages, though perhaps not. 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 I don't believe it had even gone to court yet. Even if it had, there was no ruling until now. 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 best nodes offered for some of their products, so that is what they used. They had no way of knowing the tech offered was illegal and no control over the node even if they did.

    I have to wonder if TSMC has a license to use the tech. I don't recall hearing about them licensing the technology from anyone, but I never heard that Intel did it until now either.
  • melgross - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    No, these companies, which aren’t all American, are only indirectly violating the patent. Samsung is building the chips, so they are the direct violator. What the court did was to just note some of the companies who are the biggest customers of Samsung, and so have their chips made by Samsung, using the violated patents. It’s not really their fault, and the notion of “first sale” comes into this.
  • boeush - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    Fascinating thing: a S. Korean institution suing a S. Korean megacorp - in a Texas court. o_O

    Also, for some reason I never knew finfets were a KAIST invention. I learned something today: thanks, Anandtech!
  • costpermille - Tuesday, June 19, 2018 - link

    Just created an account to correct this. The original FinFET was invented at UC Berkeley; my semiconductor physics professor from many years ago is one of the co-inventors. Just google "who invented the FinFET?" http://berkeleysciencereview.com/berkeley-intel-th...

    This patent pertains to a particular method and process of manufacturing FinFETs. One that KAIST created and apparently Samsung is guilty of using without proper licensing.
  • boeush - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    Well whaddayakno... I learned more than one thing today! :)
  • Manch - Wednesday, June 20, 2018 - link

    The U.S.-based licensing arm of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) sued Samsung over U.S. Patent 6,885,055. yup...fascinate...no...

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