Samsung Electronics is among the largest mobile semiconductor manufacturers in the world, and throughout the past couple of years or so, the company has been using FinFET (Fin Field Effect Transistors) technology for manufacturing its own chips as well as Qualcomm’s. However, it now appears that Samsung Electronics, Qualcomm, as well as GlobalFoundries are being sued in the United States by the U.S. branch of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) for the use of FinFET technologies without paying royalties.
According to a report from South Korea, an IP (intellectual property) management subsidiary of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in the U.S. has filed a lawsuit against Samsung Electronics, GlobalFoundries, and Qualcomm at a federal court in Texas last Tuesday. KAIST claims that although Samsung Electronics is now making extensive use of FinFET, the company did not show any interest in the technology back in 2001 when it was initially presented to them by Seoul National University professor Lee Jong-ho. However, when Intel later released a similar semiconductor technology called MOSFET (short for metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor), Samsung Electronics invited Lee Jong-ho to lecture its engineers in FinFET technology. According to KAIST “Samsung Electronics could save time and costs to develop the technologies by duplicating Lee’s invention without paying royalties”. The subsidiary then added that the company “continued to expropriate Lee’s achievements without consideration of his rights or proper compensation.”
Both Samsung Electronics and GlobalFoundries make use of FinFET semiconductor process for creating system-on-chips, and Qualcomm manufactures its own chipsets in Samsung Electronics and GlobalFoundries factories. In other words, although Qualcomm has not developed a FinFET process of its own, it does make use of the technology through the two aforementioned chipset manufacturers. The latest Qualcomm chip expected to be manufactured in Samsung Electronics factories is the Snapdragon 835, which has already been confirmed earlier in November. The Snapdragon 835 is supposed to be manufactured using 10-nanometer FinFET technology, and the first commercially-available devices to hit the shelves carrying the Snapdragon 835 under the hood are likely to debut in the first half of 2017. It remains to be seen how the lawsuit will be settled or if it will affect Samsung Electronics production capacity, but the company has yet to make any official comments on the matter.