There is no doubt Georgia has a lot of reasons to breathe a sigh of relief that the dispute is settled between the South Korean companies SKI and LGES relating to the theft of trade secrets. It is also important as we look back at what occurred so that, as a state, we do not revise history to suit our actions because, as Winston Churchill said, “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”
SKI was found by the most respected international trade tribunal in the world, the International Trade Commission, to have in fact stolen trade secrets from LGES. Those secrets underlie the technology SKI intends to utilize in its Commerce, Georgia, plant. Those who state otherwise have clearly failed to read the excoriating decision published by the ITC.
It is laughable to suggest that SKI destroyed reams of documents in order to hide the fact they actually developed the technology themselves. Really?
So rather than acknowledge their misdeeds, make amends and move on, SKI decided to threaten Georgia with loss of its investment and the commensurate jobs in order to induce the state to advocate that the law should be ignored and SKI should be let off scott free. In other words, that Georgia would become a haven for international Internet Protocol (IP) thieves.
While that strategy might work for SKI and might through blackmail keep the investment in Jackson County, it would have prevented the other 158 counties in Georgia from ever seeing a new dime of investment. What company would invest in a state that disregards the integrity of protecting IP? This story line also required one to ignore that SKI had not yet created even 10 percent of the promised jobs and had been found to have illegally imported scores of Korean workers for the plant.
While regrettably some in state government succumbed to the blackmail and did advocate for the “haven” theory, fortunately many of our public officials did not. Georgia’s two new U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and state legislators like Calvin Smyre, Jen Jordan, Elena Parent and Stacey Evans, immediately saw that respecting the law and developing the economy of Georgia were consistent, not mutually exclusive, goals. These leaders immediately recognized that the integrity of IP laws could be respected AND the jobs retained if the two companies were pressured to reach a settlement of their dispute. So rather than suggesting that the thievery be ignored, they advocated for fair value to be paid for the stolen technology and that the technology could thereby continue to be deployed in the Georgia plant.
This message was heard by the Biden Administration and, through its trade representative, the two parties were “encouraged” to come to that type of settlement. Fortunately, the strategy worked and for Georgia we have retained the investment, we have retained our integrity and we have an “open for future hi-tech business” sign in the window.
Gordon Giffin of Atlanta was the U.S. ambassador to Canada from 1997 to 2001.