CEO personally overlooks patent applications
Seoul Semiconductor, the world’s fourth-largest LED manufacturer, is leveraging its patents to maintain an industry edge. So far, the firm has won around 200 patent suits and is in the midst of 30 others, according to a company official.
Seoul Semiconductor has around 12,000 patents to its name. The company CEO Lee Jeong-hoon, is famous for taking the lead, starting from the patent application to courtroom battle. In fact, he personally decides which patents to apply for.
Seoul Semiconductor first began to defend its patents in 2013 after revenues surpassed 1 trillion won ($864.5 million). Pretty soon, it realized that offense was the best kind of defense, and promptly changed its line of strategy.
The scenario is prepared in stages. The company first selects about 10 patents that can be used, then file lawsuits based on two or three of them. How the opponent reacts decides its next step. If the opponent strikes back, Seoul Semiconductor ups the pressure with more patents. This tenacity has earned the company the nickname “Bulldog” from overseas.
The timing of the lawsuit is another factor.
Many are filed when the company’s rival tries to supply a client of Seoul Semiconductor’s. Other times, it’s when its competitors have scheduled important events, to deflect the attention.
These strategies also apply for the overseas markets, which Seoul Semiconductor calls “battle site,” where it fights with its weapons – patents.
Earlier, Seoul Semiconductor signed off cross-licenses with the big three players in the LED sectors. In 2007, it was with Osram of Germany, in 2009, with Japan’s Nichia Corp. and with Philips of the Netherlands in 2011. Afterwards, Nichia vowed to never engage in reckless fights. Another famous anecdote is of how a 12-member vice presidential delegation at Philips dropped the suit in court, saying there was no chance of beating Seoul Semiconductor.
This year, Seoul Semiconductor filed patent suits against US lighting company Satco, German distributor Leuchtstark Vertriebs GmbH and its American consumer electronics distributor The Factory Depot. Last year, it was able to get the Dusseldorf court to take its side against Taiwan’s Everlight Electronics, and got the firm to recall its products.