11 arrested over stolen Samsung TV technology

Here’s a rare tech story from the police blotter: Eleven suspects have been arrested in connection to AMOLED technology allegedly stolen from Samsung and sold to one of its competitors in the TV manufacturing space.

Sources for the Suwon desk of South Korean news agency Yonhap News stated the stolen tech revolves around next-generation flat screen displays for televisions and was leaked from Samsung’s mobile display division to a rival firm.

The arrested persons include Samsung’s and/or its rivals researchers and employees. One of the arrested former Samsung employees was paid the equivalent of $168,544 for information about Samsung’s AMOLED display technology and subsequently accepted a position at the competitor in question. Police told Yonhap reporters that this suspect then attempted to leak the same information to another manufacturer in China upon becoming disgruntled with his new employer.

The specific technology suspected of having been leaked is one that is quite unique to Samsung’s AMOLED displays. Called small mask scanning (SMS), this technology is a replacement for fine metal masking (FMM), a simple but inefficient method used for one of the many steps in making an OLED panel. (For a full run-down of how OLED displays are made, check out this highly informative and detailed page.)

The point is, Samsung’s signature AMOLED process (including the SMS technology) was supposed to make it possible for that company to produce larger and larger AMOLED displays, all without having to cut the glass substrate. The company was set to debut a 65″ AMOLED TV this year — yep, that’s 10 inches larger than the monster displays they were showing off at CES this year. But talk around the SMS method has been fraught with rumors; apparently, it was hot enough to make Samsung employees willing to share it — and to make competitors want to pay for it.

As the world waits for Korean police to release more details, we at VentureBeat can’t help but ask, who was the rival company? LG has been working on a lot of the same problems with large LED screens; could it be that someone at that company felt like taking an unscrupulous research shortcut?

We’ll keep you posted as news continues to break in this case.

Image courtesy of Hasloo Group Production Studio, Shutterstock