Trespass Tuesdays – February 13, 2018: Korean Chaebol Cons College Classmates Out Of Costly Charging Tech

by: Patrick Anderson | February 13, 2018

NuCurrent v Samsung

According to a federal complaint filed on February 5, 2018, Samsung blatantly stole wireless charging technology belonging to a company founded by students from Northwestern University. The patent owner, NuCurrent, claims that Samsung induced NuCurrent to reveal its proprietary information under false pretenses, by pretending to seek a partnership when it, in fact, wanted to rip-off NuCurrent’s patented innovation and use it for their own purposes. NuCurrent’s complaint states: “Samsung instead took NuCurrent’s intellectual property—without giving notice or gaining permission—and implemented it in Samsung’s new smartphones, including the Galaxy S7 and S8.” That statement strikes me as an oddly necessary inclusion, thieves rarely give notice or ask for permission before stealing. Samsung, it would seem, is no different.

For its part, NuCurrent did what was asked of it. They protected their valuable intellectual assets by applying for patents and taking proper safeguards to protect their confidential trade secrets. As they explain, “This has allowed NuCurrent to confidently engage with potential industry partners without fear that its inventions will be misappropriated.  Unfortunately, one potential partner, Samsung, has done just that.” The complaint goes on to detail how Samsung took possession of NuCurrent antenna designs and product samples during meetings in throughout 2015. Samsung then stole NuCurrent’s intellectual property, passing off pirated wireless charging technology as its own in mid 2016, according to NuCurrent’s allegations.

The 56-page complaint details numerous instances of misconduct and provides in-depth explanations of how Samsung’s products changed before and after the latter’s theft. However, the patent owners themselves sum it up best:

Samsung’s masquerading as an interested partner was merely a way to gain access to, and then misappropriate, NuCurrent’s intellectual property. After unlawfully purloining that property, Samsung then swiftly implemented NuCurrent’s designs and technology into Samsung’s product lines before the startup from Chicago knew what happened.

Every Tuesday, IP Wire will highlight significant cases of intellectual trespass by some of the world’s the largest and most powerful companies. These illegal acts hamper commercialization efforts, as research and educational institutions simply lack the resources to compete with massive incumbents. In the case of public universities, public funds create technology and property rights, only to be stolen by massive incumbent organizations. In other cases, property rights stem from research by publicly subsidized, not-for-profit organizations. Companies who illegally use this technology without compensation are, in effect, stealing from the public, while entities that dare assert their rights are vilified in the media. IP Wire’s mission, and we choose to accept, is to get out in front of these stories and expose these actions for what they are: harmful and illegal.


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