TMT CEO Files $100m IP Suit Over Vessel Sale
Hsin-Chi Su, Chairman and CEO of Today Makes Tomorrow Group (TMT) launched a suit in Texas federal court on July 28, 2014, alleging that a planned bankruptcy sale of three company ships, including M.V.D Whale, M.V.G Whale and M.V.H Whale, to Mega International Commercial Bank Co. Ltd. (Mega Bank) will strip him of intellectual property worth more than $100 million for each ship. According to Ken Liang's deposition at the court, Mega Bank is the agent for vulture fund Oaktree Capital Group.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Marvin Isgur recently signed off on a sale of the ships to Mega Bank without adequately protecting Su's interest in the boats' patented technology. For this reason, Su wants the federal district court to either issue a declaratory judgment clarifying that Judge Isgur's order approving the sale of the ships "free and clear" of any liens did not extinguish his rights under several Asian patents he holds, or forceMega Bank to immediately compensate him for the loss of his intellectual property, more than $100 million for each ship.
Judge Isgur declined to adjudicate his patent rights, but left open the possibility that the TMT executives could pursue infringement claims against eitherMega Bank or TMT if it is later determined that Su's intellectual property was improperly transferred.
Su said "I deeply regret that Judge Isgur declined to adjudicate the patent rights. The practice of selling the ships of TMT to a U.S. company without securing the permission of patent rights owners is tantamount to selling pirated copies. This reminds me of the Asian financial crisis in 1997, when foreign funds aggressively acquired Asian companies at low prices."
Su designed an underdeck piping structure for the ships, which he patented in Japan, Korea and China, but allowed TMT to use it without a license.
In this case, the sale orders did not determine ownership of the Asian patents. Hence, Su owns the Asian patents and retains his rights to enforce the Asian patents by, among other things, suing infringers regardless of the sale orders.