▶주메뉴 바로가기

▶본문 바로가기

The Korea Herald
검색폼

THE INVESTOR
June 24, 2024

Tech

Seoul court bans former SK hynix chip researcher from working for US rival

  • PUBLISHED :March 07, 2024 - 17:26
  • UPDATED :March 07, 2024 - 17:26
  • 폰트작게
  • 폰트크게
  • facebook
  • sms
  • print

SK hynix showcases its latest AI and High Performance Computing solutions at Supercomputing 2023, a tech show held in Colorado, the US, Nov. 14-16, 2023. (SK hynix)

In the wake of heated competition for chip supremacy, a Seoul court has stepped in to block a former chip researcher involved in chip design at SK hynix from working for US-based rival Micron Technology, alleging possible technology leaks.

According to industry sources on Thursday, Seoul Central District Court granted permission to an injunction request filed by SK hynix late last month to prevent the former researcher from working for another company, and ordered the executive to pay 10 million won ($7,511) for each day he violated the terms of his contract.

Before leaving SK hynix, the employee had apparently signed a another contract prohibiting former employees from working for or providing consultations to rival companies for two years after quitting the company.

"The debtor (former researcher) is banned from working for or signing any kind of contract providing consultations to all offices of US Micron Technology through July 26, 2024," the court said.

At SK hynix, the world's No. 2 memory chip maker and leading the global High Bandwidth Memory chip market, the employee had worked on DRAM and HBM designs.

In July 2022, the employee quit SK hynix, and then was hired as an executive at Micron Technology, the No. 3 memory chip maker.

Industry sources believe the court's injunction order, which comes 5 months before the employee's contract ends, shows the court took industry concerns over technology leakage seriously.

In light of the exponential growth of the AI market, the demand for advanced HBM chips is growing quickly, and SK hynix is leading the burgeoning market with Samsung Electronics, together taking about 90 percent of the market share.

HBM is a memory chip with low power consumption and ultra-wide communication lanes, using vertically stacked memory chips to break processing bottlenecks caused by conventional memory chips.

Micron Technology has been seen ramping up its edge in the HBM market over the past couple of months, and it announced that it had started on mass production of fifth- generation HBM3E memory ahead of rivals SK hynix and Samsung.

The HBM market, which took about 1 percent of the total memory chip market in terms of volume last year, is anticipated to more than double this year.

With the competition intensifying, the chip industry is calling for stronger legal measures from the government to protect their technological edge.

According to Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, there were 23 cases of overseas technology leaks 2023, three more than the year before. Among them, 15 cases occurred in the semiconductor sector.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)

EDITOR'S PICKS