Samsung’s upcoming foldable phone could be a groundbreaking device, but while the company recently showed the tech in use, exactly how it works is still unknown. Not only that, but it could end up becoming extremely valuable. In fact, the CEO of one of Samsung’s suppliers, Toptec Co Ltd, along with eight employees of the supplier, were just charged by South Korean officials for allegedly stealing the underlying foldable phone tech and trying to sell it to a Chinese competitor.
A report from Bloomberg noted that after a period of slowed sales, the CEO of one of Samsung’s suppliers set up a fake company and built flexible displays in a different factory — after conspiring to sell that technology to a Chinese display manufacturer. The attempt to sell the tech to the Chinese company was made between May and August 2018 for 15.5 billion won, or around $13.8 million.
So how did they get caught? Well, according to the Bloomberg report, the Samsung supplier was found loading components into a ship that was headed for mainland China.
A number of details are still unknown. For example, we don’t yet know exactly which Chinese company tried to purchase the displays. We do know that the components being sold were related to “3D lamination,” which could include flexible OLED display panels and adhesives that are used to create the new Samsung Infinity Flex Display. That display will be featured in an upcoming Samsung foldable phone.
According to prosecutors in the case, it took Samsung six years and 150 billion won (or $134 million) to develop the technology that was leaked. In a statement to Bloomberg, Samsung said that it was “shocked at the results of the investigation by prosecutors, at a time when competitors are intensifying their technological rivalry.”
Samsung is expected to release its first phone with a flexible display in early 2019, after which competitors will likely develop and release their own devices with flexible displays. It’s currently unknown if flexible displays will really be the next major trend in smartphones, but whether it turns out to be or not, Samsung is likely to be at the forefront of the tech.