Samsung Not Involved After Alleged ASML Theft

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South Korean giant says it respects intellectual property and is disappointed at certain media reports

Samsung Electronics has been dragged into the row surrounding intellectual property theft from Dutch chipmaker ASML.

Earlier this month ASML admitted it suffered intellectual property theft in 2015, but it rejected a media report at the time that it had been struck by Chinese spies.

Court documents in the US reportedly showed six former ASML employees, all with Chinese names, had breached their employment contract by sharing information on ASML software processes with a company called Xtal Inc.

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IP theft

ASML is one of the world’s largest makers of microchip manufacturing equipment, and it said at the time that no “valuable” files had been accessed.

But ASML latter admitted it had been robbed “by a handful of our own employees based in Silicon Valley, who had broken the law to enrich themselves.”

ASML said staff at a company (Xtal) were found by a US jury to have misappropriated ASML’s confidential and proprietary information and trade secrets in 2015.

Xtal filed for bankruptcy in December after losing the $223m (£171 million) judgement to ASML over the matter.

But now Samsung has been dragged into the row, after ASML CEO Peter Wennink, who had initially denied some Dutch media reports that the Chinese government had been behind the theft, then went to state that funding for Xtal had come in part from China and in part from Korea, Reuters reported.

Wennink reiterated the alleged Korean connection in a TV interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS on Tuesday this week.

“What we have found evidence for is that the (secrets) were stolen by people of American and Chinese nationality with Chinese background,” he allegedly told NOS. “Those products were used to provide services to our largest Korean customer.”

Samsung denial

That last part has made Samsung very unhappy indeed, as Samsung is ASML’s largest South Korean customer and its largest customer overall.

Samsung told Reuters in an emailed response that it was not involved in the industrial espionage.

“Samsung makes it a top priority to protect and respect the intellectual property rights of others … No products that have resulted from our partnership with Xtal interfere with ASML’s intellectual property,” Samsung reportedly said.

“We are deeply disappointed at media reports that had widely assumed or even suggested Samsung’s involvement in any wrongdoing against ASML, which are not true,” Samsung added.

“While we cannot disclose details of our business deals, Samsung had made precautions so as to adhere to all laws and regulations with its development contract with Xtal, including a clause that specifically prohibits the illegal use of third-party IP,” Samsung reportedly said.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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