Tech king to pay ex-staffer $5.6M over patents

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Tech king to pay ex-staffer $5.6M over patents

Samsung Electronics must pay 6.03 billion won ($5.56 million) to one of its former employees after a Seoul court ruled against it in a patent dispute yesterday.

Wrapping up a two-year court case, the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, who was only identified by the surname Chung.

Chung worked for the company as a senior researcher from 1991 and 1995 and was responsible for research and development related to high-definition TVs. His research resulted in the company winning 10 patents in Korea and 28 overseas.

Even after he left the company, 17 additional patents were registered in the United States and two in Hong Kong based on his research.

He received 200 million won in compensation, but filed the suit arguing that did not fully reflect the value of his contribution to the company. Two sides failed to reach agreement via arbitration.

The court calculated that the Samsung flagship earned 62.56 billion won using Chung’s patents and that he was owed 10 percent of this. It then deducted the 200 million won.

“Considering Chung’s active role as an inventor, the size of Samsung Electronics, and the profits the company reaped from using his patents, it is appropriate to set the reward rate at 10 percent,” the court said.

After the verdict was made known, Samsung Electronics released a statement saying the court underestimated its role in both registering and managing the patents. It said it may appeal the ruling.

“Whenever our employees get patents listed, it is based on massive support from the company in terms of providing all the major infrastructure for the development process. The company also takes on board a lot of risk and costs after the patent is registered,” Samsung said in a release. “With [Chung’s] patent regarding MPEG technology, for example, we pay for lawyers and licensing experts to register it in a total of four patent pools.”

Samsung said the court should also be aware that it runs the best reward system in the industry for staff who get patents listed.

It added that it also runs various support programs, such as one called “idea open space” on its Intranet that encourages employees to be more creative in pursuing new patent applications.

“For the last 10 years, the company on average has paid 5 billion won a year to employees in the form of rewards [for patents],” it said.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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