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Korean Government Continues to Harass Apple with yet another Investigation into Infringing KAIST Processor Technology



Last year Patently Apple reported on the Korean press going ballistic over the U.S. forcing a recall of the Samsung Note 7 saying it was a protectionist move to protect Apple. This year the Korean press was calling for a recall of the iPhone 8 due to a handful of cases around the world where the iPhone display was separating from the body before the iPhone 8 was even in Korea. Then in November the Korean Fair Trade Commission raided Apple's Korean Office just as the iPhone X was debuting so as to give Apple a black eye.


Today we learn that the "Korean Trade Commission has started another investigation on Apple Korea over alleged patent infringement of a state-run research institute's chip technology.


According to the commission under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Friday, KAIST Intellectual Property (KIP) demanded this month that the government investigate the Korean unit of the global smartphone maker. KIP is the intellectual property arm of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).


KIP claimed that Apple Korea used KAIST's semiconductor manufacturing process technology known as 'fin field effect transistors' without permission for its smartphones and tablet PCs."


The technology at issue is a three-dimensional transistor that can increase the degree of semiconductor integration on a chip to boost performance while reducing energy consumption. It is a basic element of application processing that plays a key role in smartphone and tablet PC manufacturing.


Seoul National University professor Lee Jong-ho first developed it in partnership with KAIST.


The KIP said in its statement to the KTC that Apple's smartphones, including iPhone X, and iPads that are imported from China and Hong Kong and sold in Korea violate the patent rights.


In response, the KTC reviewed whether the request was enough to launch the investigation.


Along with the iPhone X, the iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, SE, 7, 7 Plus, 8 and 8 Plus as well as three types of iPads will be subject to the KTC investigation.


It usually takes six to 10 months for the KTC to complete an investigation into an alleged unfair trade practice.


If it find a patent infringement occurred, it can issue a corrective order, while fining Apple Korea 30 percent of its annual sales.


Apple Korea has yet to announce a statement on the case.


For the record, Fin field effect transistors translates to finFET transistors that is a technology that TSMC provided Apple with for iPhone 8 and iPhone X. TSMC is on record for being a pioneer in finFET with KAIST nowhere to be found. Here's another Wiki reference to TSMC as one of the inventors of the technology and again KAIST is not listed.


If there's an investigation on Apple's use of FinFET, it should have been aimed at TSMC. Going after Apple instead of TSMC is political maneuver and a way to hurt the Apple brand now that they're about to open their first flagship store in that country. It's a move that is likely cheered on by Samsung who has worked with KAIST over the years.


The report continued with yet another stab at Apple the brand as expected by stating that "The KTC investigation may deal another blow to Apple as the company is under investigation for slowing down older iPhones on purpose."


The Korean report ended by stating that "The KTC was established in 1987 to investigate and remedy domestic industrial injury inflicted by unfair trade practices and rising imports."


Adding that last line is a hint of a possible looming trade war with the U.S. at the oddest of times when the country needs the U.S. to save them against any North Korean aggression.


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