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Samsung sued (again) for stealing tech from smaller company (again)

One can't help but notice a disturbing trend with Samsung and getting sued.

Published onMarch 15, 2018

Samsung Logo from CES FirstLook 2018-4
  • NuCurrent, a company devoted to wireless charging technology, is suing Samsung for the alleged theft of NuCurrent’s intellectual property.
  • This is not the first time Samsung has been sued for IP theft, nor is it the first time it’s allegedly stolen from much smaller companies.
  • Samsung knows that its legal team will beat any other smaller company’s legal team in a court battle, so it doesn’t have much fear when it comes to IP theft.

Samsung, no stranger to dealing with lawsuits, is being sued by a company called NuCurrent over the alleged theft of intellectual property related to smartphone wireless charging. This is a new addition in a long line of lawsuits where Samsung gets taken to court for stealing tech secrets from other companies.

NuCurrent is a company based in Chicago that focuses on wireless charging technology. The company developed a new way to deliver fast and efficient wireless charging speeds and talked to Samsung about licensing the technology. Samsung invited the NuCurrent team to South Korea, where the two companies had a multi-day meeting going over how the technology works and how it could benefit Samsung if put to use in the company’s smartphones.

NuCurrent met with Samsung hoping to license its wireless charging technology to the smartphone manufacturer.

The meeting was considered a success by NuCurrent, with Samsung showing strong interest in using NuCurrent technology in its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note line of phones. However, NuCurrent became increasingly frustrated by Samsung as it stalled in making the partnership official.

Then, NuCurrent was horrified to find that Samsung implemented NuCurrent technology in the Samsung Galaxy S7 and eventually the Galaxy S8, among other devices, without ever signing a licensing deal.

Now, NuCurrent is suing Samsung for theft of intellectual property. Its intent, according to a statement from the company, is to “prevent any further misuse of its proprietary information, to prevent Samsung from harming NuCurrent’s reputation by misusing its technology, and to obtain damages, including for Samsung’s undeserved enrichment resulting from their unlawful conduct.”

This is not the first time Samsung’s been sued over stealing technology.
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This is not the first time Samsung’s been sued over stealing technology. Who can forget when Apple took it to court over similarities between Galaxy S phones and iPhones? What’s interesting about this NuCurrent case is that it is also not the first time Samsung has allegedly stolen technology from a smaller, younger company, rather than a company of equal size like Apple.

In 2014, Samsung included a technology it referred to as “Smart Pause” in its Galaxy S4 smartphone. The feature paused video playing on the smartphone if the viewer turned away from the screen. It was a cool feature, but it was allegedly stolen from a company called PARTEQ, in association with Queens’ University, which presented a very similar technology to Samsung well before the release of the Galaxy S4.

In 2016, a number of patents Samsung licensed from a semiconductor company called Tessera expired. Rather than renew the licenses, Samsung allegedly kept using the technology without paying Tessera. According to Tessera, the company tried to work with Samsung to renew the licenses, but were continually rebuffed, and were forced to sue.

And last year, Samsung got into hot water over the Samsung Gear VR, which has “powered by Oculus” printed right on the box. The problem is that Oculus was sued by a company called ZeniMax, which developed a portion of the technology used in the headset, and Samsung continued to use the technology allegedly with full knowledge that ZeniMax was in the process of defending its intellectual property.

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You might be wondering why a company as large and wealthy as Samsung would do things like this. The answer? Why pay license fees when you can use the technology for free and then have your team of highly paid lawyers duke it out with a smaller company’s less-expensive legal team in court?

In a statement to Android Authority, NuCurrent called out Samsung for doing just that:

The current business climate and some law changes in the America Invents Act of 2011 have made it economically beneficial for large companies to copy/steal technology instead of paying for a license or buying through legitimate means, especially from small, innovative companies that have trouble enforcing IP and weathering the storms that Goliath companies can create.

You might be wondering why NuCurrent gave up its technology so willingly to Samsung in the first place. According to the complaint, NuCurrent had Samsung sign a non-disclosure and strict confidentiality contract before presenting any of its technology to the company. NuCurrent thought this would keep it safe, but it seems that Samsung paid it no mind.

NuCurrent had no idea that Samsung has this reputation for theft.
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Why did NuCurrent feel secure in sharing its trade secrets, even with confidentiality agreements? We wondered that too and asked NuCurrent if it was aware that Samsung has a history of stealing IP for new products from smaller companies. NuCurrent’s answer was simple: “No.”

NuCurrent refers to its lawsuit against Samsung as a kind of “David & Goliath” story, and is hoping to get a jury trial for the case, should it make it that far. As with most lawsuits of this kind, it may end up that Samsung will settle out-of-court with NuCurrent, under the full knowledge that NuCurrent’s legal team probably wouldn’t stand a chance against Samsung’s. If that’s the case, then Samsung’s “efficient infringement strategy” will have paid off once again, and it will only be a matter of time before another lawsuit like this pops up on our radar.

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