South Korea indicts group for leaking Samsung display tech to Chinese firm

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean prosecutors on Thursday said they have indicted nine people on suspicion of leaking Samsung Electronics Co Ltd flexible display technology to a Chinese company.

The Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office has charged the chief executive and eight employees of supplier Toptec Co Ltd for selling information earlier this year about Samsung’s organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels.

The group are accused of forming a separate shell company that received information on the use of equipment and drawings of panels obtained from Samsung subsidiary Samsung Display, and which sold some of the documents in China for 15.5 billion won ($13.85 million), the prosecutors office said.

Toptec, which produces automated equipment to make mobile phone display panels, denied any wrongdoing.

“Our company has never provided Samsung Display’s industrial technology or business secrets to a Chinese client. Our company will fully cooperate with legal proceedings to find the truth in court,” Toptec said in a statement.

Shares in Toptec tumbled 20 percent.

A Samsung Display spokesman said the indictment was “regrettable” and that the firm would increase efforts to protect technology.

Prosecutors said Samsung Display invested 150 billion won over six years to develop the leaked technology of 3D lamination, which they said was “a national core technology”.

Samsung dominates the market for small and mid-sized OLED displays and is a supplier of Apple Inc.

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Samsung's foldable phone – at a glimpse

SAN FRANCISCO • Samsung Electronics has unveiled its much-anticipated foldable phone in San Francisco, urging Android developers to start writing apps for it.

The South Korean tech company needs to get the foldable phone right to reverse steep declines in profit for its mobile division and restore some of the cachet its brand has lost to Apple.

Foldable phones promise the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device.

Mr Justin Denison, a senior vice-president of mobile product marketing, on Wednesday showed a prototype with a screen that he said measured 18.5cm diagonally.

Folded in two it looked like a thick phone, but the media and developers were not allowed to touch or see the device up close.

Mr Dave Burke, vice-president of engineering for Google’s Android software platform, told a Google conference in California that Samsung planned to introduce a new Android-based device early next year. “We expect to see foldable products from several Android manufacturers,” he said.

Google’s head of Android UX, Mr Glen Murphy, who was on stage with Samsung, said Google would work with developers to bring more features to the phone.

Samsung said it would be ready for mass production in the coming months.

Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell said that while the bendable screen provided a wow factor, shoppers may not like the thickness of the folded phone or its price tag. “They’ll have to prove that it’s more than just a gimmick,” said Mr O’Donnell.

“But it’s smart to open it up to developers early to do different types of experiences.”

Ms Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research, said the product would likely be quite expensive in the near term. “We’re talking about brand new materials that have been made for this and also a new manufacturing process,” she said.

Samsung is among a few developers working on foldable phones.

China’s Huawei Technologies has said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.

Samsung and Huawei have been beaten to the market, however, by Royole, a Chinese display making start-up, which last week unveiled a foldable Android phone with a 7.8 inch screen, priced from around US$1,300 (S$1,800). Royole said it would start filling orders late next month.

REUTERS

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