Nine Charged in Plot to Steal Samsung's Most-Hyped Phone Technology

Illustration for article titled Nine Charged in Plot to Steal Samsung's Most-Hyped Phone Technology
Photo: Samsung

While the jury is still out on how practical bendy phone screens will be, the tech behind them is still one of the most lucrative trade secrets in the industry. So it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that the CEO of a Samsung supplier and eight employees have been charged by South Korean officials for trying to sell the flexible screen tech to a Chinese competitor.


According to Bloomberg, prosecutors say that after a recent dip in sales, the CEO of a Samsung supplier set up a fake company and built critical bendy screen components in a separate factory before selling the tech to a Chinese screen maker between May and August for 15.5 billion won (around 13.8 million dollars).

The components in question have been billed as “3D lamination” tech, which include things like bendable OLED panels, shock-absorbent films, and flexible adhesives that are used to create Samsung’s Infinity Flex Display.

In the end, the whole scheme reportedly unraveled when the Samsung supplier was caught loading components onto a ship destined for mainland China. We may never know which Chinese manufacturer was trying to buy the tech, as the names of the companies and individuals in this case have not been disclosed.

Corporate espionage is nothing new, but situations such as this seem to be cropping up more frequently, as just recently an Apple engineer was charged with stealing documents related to autonomous driving and Chinese company Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. was charged with stealing DRAM tech from US-based Micron.

With the looming arrival of Samsung’s first bendable-screen phone scheduled for sometime next year, this case may be the highest-profile example of the dastardly ways tech companies are trying to keep up with one another. And while Samsung may have stopped one company selling its secrets for now, it’s only a matter of time before that knowledge gets out.



Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.



While the jury is still out on how practical bendy phone screens will be

The idea of “folding” a phone does seem gimmicky and not very useful.

But making phones more flexible in general would definitely help improve their durability. Pretty much any phone currently on the market will get a cracked screen if you drop it on a corner, without a case, from waist height. Current phones are very hard and stiff, so a drop onto a hard surface sends an impulse (high speed shockwave) through the phone, breaking brittle components like the screen.

If the phone is flexible, the energy of impact can be mostly absorbed via elastic bending of the phone, rather than breaking things.