Korean companies are increasingly being sued for patent infringement in the U.S., and they need to be prepared to defend against such allegations. Paul Hastings LLP, a leading global law firm, hosted its inaugural U.S. Litigation Forum 2015 on Oct. 6 at Ferrum Tower in Seoul to address this topic.
Kim Jong-han, partner and chair of the Seoul office of Paul Hastings, started off the event by saying, “We are pleased to host this major conference for our Korean clients at this particular time where civil litigation and government prosecution against Korean corporations are sharply increasing in the United States.”
Three moderated panel discussions were conducted on three different topics and issues affecting Korean Companies – namely trade secrets, antitrust litigation, and patent litigation. Barry Sher, partner and global chair of the Litigation Department of Paul Hastings, said that it is important for Korean corporations to prepare a consolidated legal risk management plan based on a full understanding of the local legal environment to successfully mitigate risk from both civil and criminal litigation in the U.S. market.
Maria Douvas, vice chair of the investigations and white collar defense practice in New York and former U.S. federal prosecutor, mentioned that the perceived increase in trade secret theft against U.S. corporations has resulted in many Korean and Chinese companies becoming the targets of trade secrets investigations and lawsuits in the United States. Because the misconduct of even one employee could subject the entire company to liability, she advised Korean companies to prioritize compliance and training programs aimed at respecting competitor trade secret information.
Naveen Modi, global vice chair of the IP practice, noted that “The America Invents Act has changed the landscape of patent litigation with its introduction of inter partes review and post grant review before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office.” If used correctly, he advised, these post-grant proceedings can provide an efficient way to resolve patent disputes.
William Stellmach, principal deputy chief of the fraud section of the criminal division at the U.S. Department of Justice until Aug. of this year, delivered the event’s keynote address on recent developments and trends in the investigation of foreign companies and their employees by U.S. law enforcement. In a Q&A session following his presentation, he was asked why so many Korean and Chinese companies were being targeted for investigations recently. His response was simply, “That’s where the evidence is leading.”
Heiri Lee, general counsel and vice president of Kolon Industries, spoke at length about the outstanding challenges faced when managing Kolon’s trade secrets disputes against DuPont and the U.S. Department of Justice. She said that managing and supervising all stakeholders, i.e., balancing long-term and short-term legal and business issues; managing the case with a small legal team; and preparing the company and employees for the actual trial were the greatest challenges.
When asked what major steps Korean companies can take to prevent legal issues, the speakers unequivocally emphasized that periodically educating and training all personnel about trade secrets laws, keeping personnel updated of any changes, and adopting a consistent corporate policy for compliance with existing laws were most imperative.
Ten partners from Paul Hastings and about a hundred representatives from leading Korean corporations participated in the forum.