Korean startup Prinker Korea Inc. has accused LG Household & Health Care Ltd. of stealing the idea for their customized tattoo printing device, Prinker M, and creating a copycat product called IMPRINTU.
According to Prinker, LG H&H applied for a design patent for a “tattoo printer” in September 2020, despite signing a nondisclosure agreement for a potential business partnership in June 2019. Prinker alleges that LG H&H’s IMPRINTU shares similarities in concept, design, and size with Prinker M, despite the latter having sold devices to LG H&H. Prinker claims that LG H&H’s actions are yet another example of a larger conglomerate copying the concept, technology, and idea of a smaller startup.
The allegations, if true, would be the latest example of a dispute over idea theft between a small firm and a large conglomerate in South Korea. Prinker’s portable tattoo printer, which can print various designs on human skin using a mobile app, is available in about 80 countries, including the United States, France, and Germany. In January, French cosmetics giant L’Oreal invested in Prinker, but did not disclose the value of the investment. Prinker has reported the alleged violation of the unfair competition prevention act by LG H&H to the Ministry of SMEs and Startups and plans to take legal action.
LG H&H denies Prinker’s allegations, stating that it has not received any materials related to Prinker’s technology and had no communication with the startup after signing the nondisclosure agreement. LG H&H also argues that the tattoo printer concept is not exclusive to Prinker, given that Hewlett-Packard patented the idea in 1999.
According to LG H&H, it has been careful to avoid infringing on existing patents since the early development stages of IMPRINTU and has worked with companies such as LG Electronics and HP since 2019. Idea theft disputes between startups and large conglomerates have been increasing in South Korea, with the Ministry of SMEs and Startups vowing to take stronger action against conglomerates that steal technology from small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Korean Edutech startups Sling & Visang Education in a ‘plagiarism’ row over app design
- Korean authorities launch investigations against Lotte Healthcare over Algocare Healthcare ‘copycat’ allegations
- Quantit develops AI Integrated Intelligent Pension Welfare platform for Korea’s National Pension Service
- Korean startup Rebellion launches AI semiconductor for ‘Korean GPT’