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VIA Says Asus Stole Its Trade Secrets

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."

  • jdwii
    They just want more money
    Reply
  • lp231
    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.
    Reply
  • Kamab
    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.
    Reply
  • hfitch
    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.
    Reply
  • bustapr
    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.
    Reply
  • wemakeourfuture
    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.
    Reply
  • Pyree
    12208737 said:
    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."
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    12208773 said:
    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.
    Reply
  • sykozis
    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.
    Reply
  • bochica
    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.
    Reply