Jacob Schindler

Korean sovereign patent fund operator Intellectual Discovery (ID) has new leadership in place following the abrupt departure of CEO Kwang Jun Kim, first reported by this blog last October. Media reports name the new president and CEO as Jung Dong-soo, a former patent executive with SK Hynix.

Jung, a professor at Seoul National University, was previously a managing director in the patent department of major Korean chipmaker Hyundai Electronics, with his career there continuing through the company’s subsequent incarnations as Hynix Semiconductors and SK Hynix. During his tenure with the DRAM and NAND Flash chipmaker, Jung oversaw licensing deals and other IP-related negotiations with companies including Rambus, Texas Instruments, NEC and Toshiba.

Jung was already affiliated with ID as a member of an external advisory board, and the reports suggest his appointment was finalised in January to prevent a long-term vacancy at the top. IAM understands that an earlier meeting of shareholders in December produced two competing nominees for the top spot – one internal and one from a major Korean corporate - but neither was able to garner a majority of votes.

Speaking with IAM on the day following his resignation as CEO, Kim described the organisation as facing a “crisis”. ID’s budget, he claimed, had been drastically slashed when responsibility for the organisation transferred from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO). Kim also suggested that working under KIPO made it difficult to pursue some business opportunities because many of the biggest potential licensees are also big patent filers. Overall he made clear his opinion that if ID were to have any future it would have to be as a private entity.

Yet there were others that laid the responsibility for ID’s poor financial situation at Kim’s feet. In 2015, ID racked up an operating loss of 6.839 million won ($6 million), and media reports around the time of Kim’s departure raised questions about the amount of taxpayer money the organisation was spending on things like international travel.

Given the tenor of Kim’s departure and the previous failed attempt to elect a replacement, it's possible that some disagreement over the future direction of ID remains, and that Jung has been brought in as something of a compromise candidate. With Korean president Park Geun Hye having been removed from office recently and elections not slated until 9th May, the government is in a state of limbo at the moment.  Thus, it is unlikely we will get any major clues about where ID is heading – and whether its leadership is still exploring privatisation options – anytime soon.  The firm did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The fund operator has remained fairly quiet since the CEO position became vacant. It did announce a privateering style deal shortly after Kim's departure that will see Document Security Systems monetise a portfolio of LED technology patents with funding provided by Juridica Asset Management. ID is also linked with a US litigation campaign by an entity called Game and Technology Co Ltd. All three active cases in that effort have been stayed pending IPRs, mirroring the situation faced by fellow SPF IP Bridge in its own US monetisation efforts. It will be instructive to watch whether ID launches any new monetisation campaigns with Jung at the helm.