Samsung: Where Litigation Meets Innovation

Richard Rosalez merges his love of technology with a passion for protecting Samsung Electronics in the courtroom

Samsung Electronics has been deeply involved in some groundbreaking moments in history when it comes to patent litigation. Though the challenges are surprising every day, Samsung’s vice president of litigation, Richard Rosalez, is absolutely thrilled to be a part of it all. Rosalez takes the time to sit down with Hispanic Executive to discuss why he feels has found his dream job, and the lessons he has learned along the way.

HE: Tell us about your background and what sparked your interest in the law.

RR: I was born and raised in Ohio. I attended MIT for college and then Columbia University School of Law. As a child, I had wide-ranging interests, including science, technology, history, sports, and politics. I always admired lawyers for their ability to effect change, from Jefferson and Lincoln to Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights lawyers. My interest in science and technology led me to MIT. When I thought that I might pursue a career in government and politics, I decided to pursue law school.

After law school, I worked for two international law firms until 2011, when I became director of litigation at Samsung Telecommunications America. In 2014, I was promoted to senior director. In 2015, Samsung Telecommunications America merged with Samsung Electronics America, and I became responsible for the combined company’s litigation docket and related activities. Earlier this year, I was promoted to vice president, litigation.

HE: From working for a law firm, what led you to go in-house at Samsung?

RR: I have always enjoyed science and technology, and describe myself as a bit of a nerd and a technophile. I jumped at the chance to join an organization like Samsung, to take on a leadership role in the legal department, and to be around groundbreaking ideas. A market leader in categories ranging from mobile to TVs to semiconductors, we are also pushing the limits of what is possible in areas like mobile payments, virtual reality, and the Internet of Things.

HE: What is your scope of responsibility like at Samsung?

RR: I am responsible for all litigation and related activities, including investigations and regulatory matters for Samsung Electronics America. This encompasses everything from pre-suit investigations, to discovery, to trials and appeals. I am also actively involved in significant strategic issues and public relations matters—I protect Samsung’s interests in litigation and related matters and advise management and business leaders accordingly. The legal issues we see are generally what you would expect for a large company like Samsung, offering a wide range of products and market leadership. We face everything from small claims to class actions and lawsuits that are competitive threats. The subject matter varies from commercial disputes to intellectual property issues.

HE: What about working in litigation for Samsung has surprised you most?

RR: Samsung’s quick rise in brand recognition and brand value has pleasantly surprised me. I had been familiar with Samsung for decades. But seeing some of the breakthroughs, and witnessing the execution around strategic decisions from inside the company has been extremely exciting.

HE: What challenges have you faced?

RR: As many lawyers would say, there is so much to do and so little time. I think I have always done a good job prioritizing competing demands. But a heavy work and travel schedule have forced me to improve my time management skills. You have to put in the work that is necessary but also know when to call it a day. Maintaining a good work/life balance is key.

HE: What has been most rewarding about working for Samsung?

RR: First of all, I have found it exciting and professionally rewarding to work on legal matters of such significance. It is rewarding to know that efforts go toward fighting to protect innovation and competition, which will benefit consumers at large. Secondly, the extent to which Samsung gives back is rewarding. Samsung is a big believer in the power of technology and what it can enable. The company significantly invests in the next generation of innovators by stimulating STEM education and support in schools. Through “Samsung Gives,” all employees get two days off each year to volunteer in their local communities.

“It is rewarding to know that my efforts go toward fighting to protect innovation and competition, which will benefit consumers at large.”

HE: Can you discuss the ongoing Samsung/Apple litigation over patents?

RR: Samsung looks forward to presenting this important case to the Supreme Court. We believe we have strong arguments, which is why we have enjoyed support from so many third parties to overturn the ruling in favor of Apple, including support from leading patent experts, numerous concerned companies, and the US government. We believe the matter is extremely important to preserve innovation and competition.

HE: What are some of your interests outside of work?

RR: I love traveling with my family. I coach my daughter and son in various sports and lead an Adventure Guides group. I volunteer at my kids’ school and in the community, including serving as an advisor to a leading area charter school. Beyond that, I try to work out to keep up with my kids and stay focused. Lastly, I am an avid professional sports, sci-fi, and comic book fan, so I watch and read when I can. Thankfully, my family enjoys these interests as well.     

HE: Who has been the most influential person in your life?

RR: My paternal grandfather. He moved throughout Texas, the South, and the Midwest with a large family in tow as migrant workers. I appreciate how hard he worked and am eternally grateful that he looked for better opportunities. I grew up a few blocks from him and spent a lot of time with him in my formative years, including driving him to chemotherapy after he was diagnosed with cancer. We shared some great times together in his last days and I took every opportunity to learn from him. He helped instill in me a great work ethic and motivated me to work hard and make a difference.