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[News Focus] Why did UK-based Nanoco sue Samsung?

Samsung QLED 8K (Samsung Electronics)
Samsung QLED 8K (Samsung Electronics)

Questions are emerging about the UK nanotechnology company Nanoco and its past relationship with South Korea’s Samsung Electronics since the British company filed a patent infringement suit against Samsung on Friday.

The UK firm filed suit against Samsung with the Texas Eastern District Court, alleging that the Korean tech giant infringed patents for five technologies related to nanoparticles and quantum dot technology that Nanoco claims to have developed.

Founded in 2001, Nanoco was spun off from a University of Manchester research group led by professor Paul O’Brien. It has technologies to produce quantum dots for vibrant screens, in particular cadmium-free quantum dots.

According to reports, in 2010 the UK firm began working with Samsung’s visual display business unit in charge of manufacturing TVs.

Media reports quoted Nanoco Chairman Christopher Richards as saying, “The group worked collaboratively with Samsung on developing enhanced quantum dots.

“We were therefore naturally disappointed when Samsung ended the collaboration and launched its QD-based televisions without entering into either a licensing or supply agreement with Nanoco.”

The list of Samsung products that Nanoco alleges to have been based on its technology includes the Q900 QLED Smart 8K UHD TV, the Q60R QLED 4K UHD TV, the Q70R QLED 4K UHD TV and the Q60T QLED 4K HDR TV.

Samsung commercialized liquid crystal display-based TVs coated with quantum dot film resins in 2017 and branded the displays “QLED.”

Although Samsung declined to say when it ended its collaboration with Nanoco, industry watchers suggest that the partnership continued at least until July 2017.

At that time, Nanoco took part in a QLED HDR 10 summit hosted by Samsung in Los Angeles, where participating companies shared technology updates related to quantum dot and QLED displays.

However, Samsung acquired the US-based QD Vision in late 2016 ahead of QLED commercialization. QD Vision was another quantum dot material company, and it sold all its intellectual property to Samsung.

At the time, Samsung was selling its SUHD TVs with its own cadmium-free quantum dot technology sourced in house from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology and produced by Hansol Chemical. It was collaborating with California-based Nanosys to further develop its quantum dot technology.

In December, it was announced that Nanoco was up for sale.

After the news came out Monday afternoon that it had filed a lawsuit against Samsung, Nanoco’s shares climbed 5.1 percent.

Nanoco named Samsung Display as one of the defendants in the suit. Samsung Display, however, was not involved in manufacturing the QLED screens.

By Song Su-hyun (