Samsung denies any involvement in theft of supplier ASML's secrets

AMSTERDAM/SEOUL, April 17 (Reuters) - South Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung on Wednesday denied any involvement in an intellectual property theft from supplier ASML.

ASML last week disclosed that former employees took company secrets to U.S. software maker Xtal Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in December after losing a $223 million judgement to ASML over the matter.

The Dutch semiconductor equipment maker’s chief executive Peter Wennink denied initial reports that the Chinese government had been behind the theft, and added that funding for XTAL had come in part from China and in part from Korea.

Wennink reiterated the alleged Korean connection in a TV interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS on Tuesday.

“What we have found evidence for is that the (secrets) were stolen by people of American and Chinese nationality with Chinese background,” he told NOS. “Those products were used to provide services to our largest Korean customer.”

Samsung is ASML’s largest South Korean customer and its largest customer overall. China is a key growth market, and the cause of a bullish 2019 forecast from ASML on Wednesday, along with better-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

Samsung, in an emailed response to questions from Reuters, said it was not involved in the industrial espionage.

“Samsung makes it a top priority to protect and respect the intellectual property rights of others ... No products that have resulted from our partnership with Xtal interfere with ASML’s intellectual property,” Samsung said.

“We are deeply disappointed at media reports that had widely assumed or even suggested Samsung’s involvement in any wrongdoing against ASML, which are not true.”

“While we cannot disclose details of our business deals, Samsung had made precautions so as to adhere to all laws and regulations with its development contract with Xtal, including a clause that specifically prohibits the illegal use of third-party IP,” Samsung said. (Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Alexander Smith)