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VIA Says Asus Stole Its Trade Secrets

By - Source: VIA | B 31 comments

On Tuesday VIA Technologies filed a civil suit against Asustek Computer and its subsidiary Asmedia Technology in the Taipei District Court seeking damages of at least NT$4.137 billion (US $138 million). The lawsuit arrives after a decision made by the Taiwan Prosecutor to pursue criminal proceedings against the subsidiary and four of its employees, including R&D VP Chang Chi. The charge? Stealing trade secrets.

"The lawsuit is being filed to recover the losses incurred as a result of the alleged misappropriation of VIA intellectual property related to USB technology," reads VIA's press release. "Also named in the suit are Asmedia Chairman Jerry Shen, Asmedia President Lin Chewei, and other Asmedia employees involved in the case."

The lawsuit alleges that Chewei Lin, a former VIA executive, and dozens of VIA employees departed from the company in 2007 and joined Asus Group's Asmedia. They supposedly took VIA's intellectual property related to USB technology with them, including host controllers and device controllers. Eventually, Asus Computer became the largest single purchaser of Asmedia USB products, including USB 3.0.

However, prior to Lin joining the company, Asmedia had no expertise in the USB field. The Taiwan Prosecutor believes that both the complexity and the legacy USB 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0 intellectual properties required for creating USB 3.0 solutions makes it "extremely difficult to develop and take such chips into mass production in such a short time frame [of one year]."

"As a long-time leader in IC design and technology innovation, VIA strongly believes in the importance of protecting intellectual property rights," commented Wenchi Chen, CEO of VIA Technologies, Inc. "In addition to protecting interests of VIA and our shareholders, the aim of this suit is to ensure our industry operates in a healthy market environment that fosters innovation and promotes fair competition."

In addition to seeking damages, VIA is also requesting the court to instruct Asmedia to "cease the production and sales of the allegedly infringing products."

Add your comment Display 31 Comments.
  • -3 Hide
    jdwii , December 17, 2013 6:42 PM
    They just want more money
  • 3 Hide
    lp231 , December 17, 2013 6:53 PM
    PCI USB 2.0 card with VIA chipset back in the days weren't that good, it had compatibility issues or something. So most users went ahead, spent the extra money and got themselves a PCI USB 2.0 with a NEC chipset.
  • 3 Hide
    Kamab , December 17, 2013 6:54 PM
    Intel must have provided references designs for usb controllers for each standard right? From that point, designing a new controller in a year doesn't sound very unbelievable at all.
  • -1 Hide
    hfitch , December 17, 2013 7:19 PM
    hope asus brings up the fact when a standard is set by a group of companies its easy for any company to make that product. If these guys who were experts in the field of usb leaves one company and moves to another company thats not trade secrets. Thats is their job to know it. Unless they signed a no compete clause which says they can not use knowledge that they gained at VIA then that be the only way they could win.
  • 7 Hide
    bustapr , December 17, 2013 7:22 PM
    so they are saying that if a usb expert leaves their company to work with another company, and that other company suddenly gets good at using USB tech, that company must be stealing their ideas. am I getting this correctly? seems kind of unfair for the employee. its as if that persons brain belong to his old company.
  • 3 Hide
    wemakeourfuture , December 17, 2013 7:30 PM
    I see merit in their case. Enough to be presented before the courts. If trade secrets were taken the punishment should be severe and swift. Of course there will be appeals, but if found in violation of the law a strict judgement must be made.

    Stealing IP from another company is a very serious matter for business and there's should be zero tolerance for this behavior.
  • 0 Hide
    Pyree , December 17, 2013 7:32 PM
    Quote:
    so they are saying that if a usb expert leaves their company to work with another company, and that other company suddenly gets good at using USB tech, that company must be stealing their ideas. am I getting this correctly? seems kind of unfair for the employee. its as if that persons brain belong to his old company.


    If VIA wins then this is possible.

    Boss, "Why are you so stupid?"
    You, "Sorry, I left my brain with my last employer. All my brain is belong to them."
    Boss, "Fair enough."
  • 2 Hide
    jimmysmitty , December 17, 2013 7:54 PM
    Quote:
    I see merit in their case. Enough to be presented before the courts. If trade secrets were taken the punishment should be severe and swift. Of course there will be appeals, but if found in violation of the law a strict judgement must be made.

    Stealing IP from another company is a very serious matter for business and there's should be zero tolerance for this behavior.


    I would like to know what trade secrets they are. USB has been around for a long time and last I checked, the majority of motherboards use ASMedia for additional USB controllers, I know for sure ASRock does normally.

    USB is a pretty common standard and besides a few new technologies in USB 3 it has the same backend in the standard.

    I doubt there were any trade secrets that VIA had that no one else had for USB. If it was some coprocessor then I would agree they have a case but I think they are just upset they lost people to Asus.
  • 2 Hide
    sykozis , December 17, 2013 8:40 PM
    VIA doesn't have a patent on USB itself, so I fail to see how they can claim any "trade secrets" in regards to a USB controller. USB has become an industry standard. To me, this suit is more about VIA saying "We developed a USB controller once so nobody else should be allowed to".... ASMedia is a USB-IF member, so they'd have access to the exact same information that VIA, NEC and Intel have, which makes it rather easy to produce a USB controller.
  • 2 Hide
    bochica , December 17, 2013 9:44 PM
    I can't believe VIA is still around. Remember back when they used to make motherboards. Had 2 of them die within months on the old Socket A AMD system.
  • 0 Hide
    IzzyCraft , December 17, 2013 10:07 PM
    Basically they are fishing, if they were really looking for trade secrets if usb they would present evidence showing that either firmware or hardware side that the usb controllers or it's firmware is very identical to previous via work.
  • 6 Hide
    Clandestine Moniker , December 17, 2013 11:30 PM
    The Toms article dropped "IP" and "violation of Copyright" in favor of "Trade Secrets" probably because Toms is being backed by ASUS. In fact, VIA is suing ASMedia, whose majority shareholder happens to be ASUS. From what it looks like, this lawsuit has more to deal with designs of USB controllers and not the USB spec itself. It's ignorant to think all USB is the same just because it's USB ~ it's like saying all cars are the same or all phones are the same because they're popular and have been around for a while.
  • 0 Hide
    Clandestine Moniker , December 17, 2013 11:31 PM
    The Toms article dropped "IP" and "violation of Copyright" in favor of "Trade Secrets" probably because Toms is being backed by ASUS. In fact, VIA is suing ASMedia, whose majority shareholder happens to be ASUS. From what it looks like, this lawsuit has more to deal with designs of USB controllers and not the USB spec itself. It's ignorant to think all USB is the same just because it's USB ~ it's like saying all cars are the same or all phones are the same because they're popular and have been around for a while.
  • 0 Hide
    Pinhedd , December 18, 2013 12:38 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I see merit in their case. Enough to be presented before the courts. If trade secrets were taken the punishment should be severe and swift. Of course there will be appeals, but if found in violation of the law a strict judgement must be made.

    Stealing IP from another company is a very serious matter for business and there's should be zero tolerance for this behavior.


    I would like to know what trade secrets they are. USB has been around for a long time and last I checked, the majority of motherboards use ASMedia for additional USB controllers, I know for sure ASRock does normally.

    USB is a pretty common standard and besides a few new technologies in USB 3 it has the same backend in the standard.

    I doubt there were any trade secrets that VIA had that no one else had for USB. If it was some coprocessor then I would agree they have a case but I think they are just upset they lost people to Asus.


    A trade secret is any sort of intellectual property which is normally carefully protected and withheld from competitors or the general public. The trade secrets aren't the USB standards documents, they are the design documents detailing NEC/Renesas's USB 3.0 host controller.

    USB 3.0 is a massive departure from USB 2.0, and neither Asus nor any of its subsidiaries had any involvement or experience in that market. As a member of the USB-IF Asus will have access to all of the necessary standards documents and patent licencors to develop their own compliant host controller, but there's no reference design which they can simply copy and implement on their own. In fact, The NEC/Renesas USB 3.0 host controller was one of the first commercially available host controller than met the specification. It wasn't the greatest controller, the ASMedia one in my desktop is undoubtedly better than the NEC/Renesas one in my laptop, but it was one of the first to market.

    It's extremely hard to bring even a simple ASIC revision to market within a year, much less a whole new design. NEC is alleging that when Asus acquired a bunch of former Renesas employees they took with them sufficient design information that Asus was able to perform the logical equivalent of going from 0 to 100 in 2.5 seconds. Even having naturally acquired employees experienced in the trade, it should still have taken Asus more than a year to bring a brand new USB 3.0 host controller to market.

    It's impossible to prevent employees from taking their experiences with them, but the law does provide civil and criminal remedies when employees take company property such as design documents with them. It's also often unlawful to poach key employees for the purposes of obtaining trade secrets through the sum of the individuals themselves even if the employees do not commit theft on their own.
  • 0 Hide
    belardo , December 18, 2013 1:06 AM
    When you post all of that... you forget that in China, they can make FAKE iPhones and other products within days.

    USB 2.0 has been around for 10+ years. USB 3 is only 2 years old (mainstream)... the departure of VIA "talent" was in 2007... long before there was any USB 3 controllers.

    - Does VIA make USB 3 controllers today? If so and its of poor quality, isn't that VIA's fault?

    VIA *DID* make some good stuff, it was intel's mis-steps that catapult VIA with the crappy i820 boards with the MTH debacle. Then VIA got quite good making AMD chipsets... until nForce2 came out... then VIA started dying. Bought what was left of Cyrix to make their own CPUs.

    It'll be interesting to see how nVidia will do in the future as PC gaming dwindles, no console GPUs and of course no chipsets.
  • 0 Hide
    ZolaIII , December 18, 2013 1:20 AM
    After a criminal lawsuit from Taiwanese law representatives (prosecutor) VIA just failed civil low suit for committed damage. It's about USB IP design. This is actually normal! They should need to be retarded not to & i believe that public prosecutor have some serious evidence for a criminal low suit to start with.

    Not only that VIA is still there bat they are doing fine. Wonder Media is part of VIA & most of WiFi IP parts in Qualcomms SoCs is VIAs IP. Actually i think that VIA is a gold mine considering they IP parts.
  • 3 Hide
    Pinhedd , December 18, 2013 1:22 AM
    Quote:
    When you post all of that... you forget that in China, they can make FAKE iPhones and other products within days.

    USB 2.0 has been around for 10+ years. USB 3 is only 2 years old (mainstream)... the departure of VIA "talent" was in 2007... long before there was any USB 3 controllers.

    - Does VIA make USB 3 controllers today? If so and its of poor quality, isn't that VIA's fault?

    VIA *DID* make some good stuff, it was intel's mis-steps that catapult VIA with the crappy i820 boards with the MTH debacle. Then VIA got quite good making AMD chipsets... until nForce2 came out... then VIA started dying. Bought what was left of Cyrix to make their own CPUs.

    It'll be interesting to see how nVidia will do in the future as PC gaming dwindles, no console GPUs and of course no chipsets.


    The fake crap coming out of China uses commercially available components slapped together in a package meant to look like another popular product. That's not at all comparable to designing a whole new ASIC. I'm sure that they would love to fake i7s if they could get their hands on the IP needed to do so.

    The USB 3.0 specification was finalized in late 2008, yet work was being done on it long before that. It's not at all uncommon for manufacturers to release products before a specification is finalized; see 802.11n and 802.11ac for examples.

    USB 3.0 is vastly different than USB 2.0 but it is not so different that a good quantity of USB 2.0 IP would be useless.

    I'm not picking a side here, just pointing out that their complaint may have merit.
  • 1 Hide
    ojas , December 18, 2013 2:16 AM
    Well, I don't remember VIA being trolls so maybe they have a point.
  • -1 Hide
    alyoshka , December 18, 2013 2:40 AM
    I see the point but I don't see the viability. It may have been difficult to design and make USB 1.0 in that age and time, but, with today's massive pool of computing facilities etc it's not that difficult or time taking to render, test and implement new designs or modify existing ones to become more efficient.
    So the argument of them being able to do it within a year is pretty much not a good or the best one.
    Specially since the company by then had all the key brains in it working on something new and different.
    I don't think Asus is going to have a problem proving it in court.
    Point to note is also that the case is being bought up against a company which is extremely well know for it's products quality and innovations and experimenting with new stuff.
    Via on the other hand, no doubt is pretty old but has stuck to it's shoddy products and really has not shown much of an interest in growth and innovation , even at the micro chip level. The case really seems ok and valid on one side but really reminds me of Apple on the other.
  • 0 Hide
    vaughn2k , December 18, 2013 2:51 AM
    Sour grapes... they lost good guys, and went to a better company. Now they used their talent utmost on the current one, and when they become successful, they branded them as stealers. That is mean...
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