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Rival display giants at loggerheads over technology theft

The country’s two display giants exchanged accusations after police announced on Thursday that it arrested 11 people on charges of stealing key technologies used in manufacturing large AMOLED screens.

Police said they had arrested 11 people, including LG Display employees, for providing key technologies ― such as small mask scanning technology and AMOLED display production processes ― for organic light-emitting diode TVs belonging to its rival Samsung Mobile Display.

The stolen technologies were the four-year work of 500 researchers and they are estimated at worth about 1.1 trillion won ($975 million), according to the police.

The act was caught by the police as some of them were intending to find a new job at a Chinese firm with the key technologies of the two Korean firms.
SMD CEO Cho Soo-in
SMD CEO Cho Soo-in
LGD CEO Han Sang-beom
LGD CEO Han Sang-beom

Samsung Mobile Display said it would take legal action if necessary, while LG Display is claiming that it has not applied the technology in its OLED TV products.

Both companies showcased 55-inch OLED TVs at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in January, but used different technologies for their display panels ― RGB-OLED for Samsung and White-OLED for LG.

“LG Display has not yet unveiled a product that uses the stolen technology but it is thought it will do so in a year or two considering that it’s unable to produce a high-quality OLED panel with the White-OLED technology,” said an executive at SMD.

According to the executive, a senior researcher at Samsung was contacted by its competitor and promised an executive seat and better income plus additional money. However, he lied to the firm about his leave and instead established a consulting firm named YAS, a subparts supplier of LGD.

The employee was obliged to not work in the same industry for a year, according to the executive.

“We will fully cooperate with the police because the investigation is not over and we plan to take legal actions if it’s needed,” said another SMD official.

Samsung estimates the damage which was caused by the incident to amount up to 30 trillion won in the next five years.

In response, LGD stated that Samsung only made its statement to damage its reputation and that it does not need the technology information of the firm because it uses a different technology.

“Because there are only two local display firms, the job relocations of some people are inevitable and the workers will only choose to go overseas if this fact is not considered,” said LG officials.

“We ask (Samsung Mobile Display) to stop trying to use this case to reduce the noise occurring within the organization regarding the merger and spin-off and concentrate on creating a forum for fair competition for the development of the local display industry.”

By Cho Ji-hyun (sharon@heraldcorp.com)
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