Pictos Accuses Samsung of Infringing Three Imaging Sensor Patents

Last Friday, Pictos Technologies Inc. filed an Eastern District of Texas suit against Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Samsung Electronics America Inc., Samsung Semiconductor Inc., and Samsung Austin Semiconductor LLC (collectively, Samsung). The filing alleged that a Pictos-predecessor invented imaging sensor technology that Samsung stole years ago.

The complaint explained that Pictos is an intellectual property company that holds patents on core technologies relating to image sensors and other features used in consumer electronics. The case reportedly dates back to the 1980s when Rockwell International, a Pictos predecessor, developed an innovative technology that now powers mobile phone and laptop cameras.

In a June 2003 transaction, ESS Technologies Inc. acquired Pictos from Rockwell’s successor, including Pictos’s digital imaging patent portfolio. ESS’s technology reportedly caught Samsung’s attention, and by March 2005 Samsung had selected an ESS chip for inclusion in its first mobile phone designed for Verizon’s EVDO broadband network.

Samsung signed non-disclosure agreements in order to gain access to ESS’s engineers, labs, source code, and expertise. From there, the filing claimed that Samsung reproduced an exact replica of ESS’s lab and used its access to copy the technology.

The filing explained that with this advantage, Samsung was vaulted to the top of the complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) industry. Allegedly, Samsung stopped doing business with ESS, and soon ESS was forced to close its business in order to “salvage what it could by licensing its technology.” Reportedly, and through several mergers, ESS morphed into Pictos.

The complaint explained that previously, one of the three asserted patents was the subject of litigation with seven other mobile phone and laptop manufactures, Apple, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Research in Motion, and Sony Ericsson. The litigation reportedly concluded after the defendants reached separate settlements with one of the plaintiff’s predecessors.

Samsung, however, refused to settle, and in 2017 was found to have willfully infringed on the same asserted patent in an Eastern District of Texas suit. The case was reportedly “reversed on other grounds,” however, and the asserted patent is included in the instant complaint. 

Finally, the filing noted that in October 2020, and at Pictos’s request, the International Trade Commission launched an investigation into Samsung’s unfair trade practices, including its infringement of the patents at issue in last week’s complaint. Pictos explained that the investigation is ongoing.

For the alleged harm, Pictos requests declaratory and injunctive relief, in addition to damages and its attorneys’ fees and costs. The plaintiff is represented by Potomac Law Group PLLC.