Samsung Insiders Accused of Leaking Tech Secrets to Patent Troll | Be Korea-savvy

Samsung Insiders Accused of Leaking Tech Secrets to Patent Troll

Ahn Seung-ho, Samsung's former head of intellectual property (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

Ahn Seung-ho, Samsung’s former head of intellectual property (Image courtesy of Yonhap)

SEOUL, Jun. 19 (Korea Bizwire) – Federal prosecutors in South Korea have charged former Samsung Electronics employees with stealing corporate secrets and funneling sensitive information to a shell company run by an ex-executive, in a case that exposes potential vulnerabilities at one of the world’s largest technology firms.

The allegations center on Ahn Seung-ho, Samsung’s former head of intellectual property who oversaw patent strategy for a decade before retiring in 2019. Prosecutors say Ahn quickly established a “non-practicing entity” – pejoratively known as a “patent troll” – and used confidential Samsung documents illicitly obtained from an insider to launch patent infringement lawsuits against his former employer in the United States. 

The informant, identified only as Mr. A, was a member of Samsung’s IP team who moonlighted running his own patent consulting firm in Japan while still employed by the tech giant, according to the indictment. Prosecutors accuse him of sharing an internal Samsung analysis on audio patents with Ahn in August 2021.

Working with a former Samsung patent analysis manager, Mr. B, Ahn then allegedly handpicked high-revenue mobile device patents from the leaked report. In November 2021, his shell company sued Samsung seeking $90 million, attempting to gain leverage for licensing negotiations by threatening the conglomerate’s lucrative smartphone business.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas recently dismissed the lawsuit, chastising Ahn’s “dishonest, unfair and offensive” tactics of weaponizing Samsung’s own confidential records. 

Beyond A’s role, prosecutors also found he procured inside information from a Samsung Display patent manager, Mr. Lee, which was then shared with a Japanese film company during licensing talks. Lee received around $120,000 from Mr. A as well as 700 million won in illicit payments funneled through shell accounts from Korean, U.S. and Chinese patent law firms in exchange for steering business their way, the indictment alleges. 

Lee and a former Samsung Display IP executive identified as Mr. C were also accused of misappropriating $770,000 in government research funds to purchase worthless patents from the Japanese firm. Prosecutors say C secretly transferred $270,000 from the deal to his personal offshore accounts. 

“This is the first time illegal activities by a patent troll operator have been confirmed and punished,” prosecutors said, vowing further crackdowns to protect domestic companies that are “being constantly targeted by foreign patent assertion entities, with Samsung sued virtually every four days in the U.S. alone.”

The indictments underscore rising threats from patent privateers who amass intellectual property not to build products, but to chase lucrative royalties and legal payouts – practices that prosecutors warned “jeopardize corporate survival and inflict fatal damage on the national economy.”

Kevin Lee ( 

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