KAIST sues Samsung/GloFo over FinFET patent infringement

December 02, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Samsung Electronics has been taken to court for infringing on a semiconductor technology patent by an intellectual property (IP) management subsidiary of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in the United States.

The U.S. branch of KAIST IP filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm and GlobalFoundries at a federal court in Texas last Tuesday (29th of November), claiming the companies should pay royalties for their use of semiconductor manufacturing process technologies known as fin field effect transistors (FinFET).

The Korea Times reports that KAIST IP claimed Samsung Electronics did not show interest in the 3D FinFET technologies in 2001 when Seoul National University professor Lee Jong-ho, who used to work at Wonkwang University at that time, presented them.

According to the complaint filing, "in 2006, Samsung engineers sought to collaborate with Prof. Lee on experimental FinFET designs and processes that built on his original work. Despite having dismissed Prof. Lee’s original bulk FinFET invention, Samsung considered the new designs based on Prof. Lee’s work to be important enough that it filed for patent protection in Korea and the United States on the improvements to Prof. Lee’s original work".

After competition (Intel) released a similar technology called tri-gate metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor (MOSFET) in 2011, and subsequently licensed Prof. Lee’s invention, Samsung invited Lee to lecture its engineers on bulk FinFETs for 14nm logic applications, the filing says.

The company was then able to catch up with its rival, announcing its first generation 14nm FinFET technology, Low-Power Early or Enhanced by February 2014 and mass producing its 14 nm FinFET mobile application processor by 2015, still without a license to use the technology, claims KAIST.

Both Samsung Electronics and GlobalFoundries manufacture semiconductor chips based on FinFET and are incriminated in the court case.