Toshiba And SanDisk Sue Hynix For Industrial Espionage

Tokyo police has arrested an engineer suspected of leaking Toshiba’s flash memory trade secrets to a South Korean competitor. Yoshitaka Sugita, a 52-year old former SanDisk employee, is accused of supplying research on flash memory to SK Hynix, the world’s second largest memory chipmaker after Samsung.

Toshiba partnered with the US flash manufacturer SanDisk over a decade ago to produce NAND chips. Both are now suing Hunix for stealing proprietary technology, and claiming damages. Toshiba has also filed a criminal complaint – an extremely rare occurrence in these types of cases.

Industrial espionage

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Sugita allegedly acquired the data on NAND flash memory, the type most frequently used in mobile devices, sometime between April 2007 and May 2008, when he worked for SanDisk. He then offered this information to the predecessor of SK Hynix, which offered him employment.

However, the relationship must have gone sour at some point, because the engineer left Hynix in 2011, and is currently unemployed.

The case appears pretty obvious, since the police have discovered the exact USB stick used to store proprietary information.

Toshiba claims it lost at least 100 billion yen (£590m) as a result of the leak. It sued Hynix in a Tokyo District Court, while SanDisk filed a similar complaint in Santa Clara Superior Court in California, and is seeking additional injunctions.

Flash chips are a key source of profit for Toshiba – the Japanese company actually invented NAND memory way back in 1989, and ships flash and hybrid storage with its own silicon on board, unlike Seagate, which has to buy them from Samsung.

This is not the first time Toshiba and its South Korean rival have locked horns. In 2004, the company filed a lawsuit against the Japanese unit of Hynix for patent violations, asking for the court for an injunction on some products. The case was ultimately settled, but Hynix was forced to discontinue some product lines and pay 7.8 million yen (£46,000) in damages.

Toshiba is planning to overtake Samsung as the world’s largest flash manufacturer once it completes a new chip foundry in Yokkaichi.

What do you know about Flash memory? Take our quiz!

Max Smolaks

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

Recent Posts

Google Ordered To Pay $43m By Australian Court

Search engine Google fined $43 million by Australian court for tracking Android users location data…

2 days ago

Hacker Touts Data Sale Of 48.5m Users Of Covid App – Report

Personal data of 48.5 million Chinese citizens who used Shanghai's Covid App, is being offered…

2 days ago

Facebook Tests Default End-to-End Encryption For Messenger

Privacy move. Platform tests secure storage of people's chats on Messenger, in a move sure…

2 days ago

UK’s CMA Begins Probe Of Viasat Acquisition Of Inmarsat

British competition regulator the CMA, begins phase one investigation of $7.3 billion merger between Inmarsat…

3 days ago

Cisco Admits ‘Security Incident’ After Breach Of Corporate Network

Yanluowang ransomware hackers claim credit for compromise of Cisco's corporate network in May, while Cisco…

3 days ago

Google Seeks To Shame Apple Over RCS Refusal

Good luck convincing Tim. Google begins publicity campaign to pressure Aple into adopting the cross…

3 days ago