Court slaps spy who helped Samsung win Apple chip orders

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chips
The battle to win Apple's chip orders is hotter than ever.
Photo: Apple

Taiwan’s top court ruled in favor of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company in a lawsuit involving a former employee who allegedly leaked trade secrets to Samsung.

The accused party — TSMC’s former senior director of R&D, Liang Mong-song — allegedly helped Samsung catch up in the chip-fabrication business and win orders for Apple’s A-series processors..

Samsung wasn’t named directly in the suit, although there’s little doubt exactly who Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company was blaming.

“We brought the lawsuit because TSMC Chairman Morris Chang and senior management were convinced we needed to send a message to Samsung, employees and other competitors,” the former chief counsel for TSMC previously noted.

Unfortunately, despite giving the nod to TSMC, Taiwan’s court seems to have failed when it comes to actually handing out a sufficiently large punishment for the industrial espionage. The accused party is simply prohibited from working with Samsung until December 31, 2015.

After leaving TSMC in 2011, Liang was given the job of professor at a “Samsung-sponsored university in South Korea” where he taught “veteran Samsung employees.”

Interestingly, the news report notes how Liang’s leaking of trade secrets may have impacted the chip-building competitiveness between TSMC and Samsung. At first, both companies produced very different chips, although “starting with 45nm to 28nm, the difference between Samsung’s and TSMC’s technologies narrowed.”

Apparently, the processes used in this year’s chips are even more alike. “It could be hard to tell (if the product) came from Samsung or TSMC if only structural analysis is used,” the report notes.

Still, with this kind of lenient “punishment” on offer, there’s absolutely no reason why a company would avoid participating in industrial espionage — particularly when a lucrative Apple deal is potentially at risk.

Source: Digitimes