Samsung's display division has quietly set up a patent company in the US, Intellectual Keystone Technology (IKT), already responsible for buying up former Seiko Epson patents believed to be around LCD and OLED tech. IKT is entirely owned by Samsung Display, and was described by a company spokesperson to The Korea Times as an attempt to "strengthen" its intellectual property base. It cost around $25m to launch the Washington D.C. based company, Samsung Display confirmed.
"Patents are a good source of innovation and we also need to protect our intellectual property by strengthening our patent-related business" the spokesperson concluded, though declined to give specifics on the Seiko Epson deal. However, industry sources claim it was IP around LCD and OLED that was most appealing, as Samsung Display tries to make itself immune to the shifting market.
"Samsung is eager to buy patents in LCD and OLED technologies as they have undisputable leverage in the display business" one insider argued. "That's the area that can generate revenue regardless of market situations."
IKT was established in March, and already has a list of patents to its name. As of the end of April, the company holds 123 patents according to a list on PatentBuddy, ranging from core display skills such as TFT semiconductor films, to more esoteric technology such as products built up of layered honeycomb surfaces.
Sparring over patents has monopolized much of Samsung's attention over the past few years, not least because of the company's various legal battles with Apple around its smartphone range. The Cupertino rival has alleged wholesale copying of its iPhone and iPad design and technologies in Samsung's Galaxy phones and slates, while Samsung has fired back with countersuits of its own. That has also seen it get into trouble with regulators, with the EC - among others - suspecting Samsung of antitrust behavior in its attempts to use 3G patents against Apple.
Even outside of the courtroom, patents are big business. Microsoft, for instance, has patent licensing agreements with more than 80-percent of Android device manufacturers, a lucrative strategy that sees the Windows Phone creator make money even when consumers buy rival devices.
That sideline in IP monetization seems to be part of the goal for Samsung Display's new venture. "IKT will be tasked to find out which patents are helpful and valued for Samsung" a source suggested, hinting that a more proactive approach to chasing down licensing fees could be on the cards.