South Korea’s Supreme Court has given Samsung a clean chit on the charges of stealing OLED display technology from LG. The ruling ends a seven-year legal battle between the two South Korean tech giants.
The case concerns LG Display’s Face Seal technology that it uses on OLED display panels. It is a sealing and bonding technology that protects the OLED element from air contact, extending the display lifespan. The company alleged that an employee from its supplier leaked this technology to Samsung Display. The said employee was suspected to have handed over confidential documents related to Face Seal to Samsung employees three to four times in 2010. This is a violation of the country’s trade secret protection law and the prevention of unfair competition law.
In addition to a chief executive of the concerned supplier firm, LG Display also indicted four Samsung Display employees in the case alleging that they received confidential documents from a rival’s supplier and used the technology in their employer’s products.
These allegations ensued a legal battle between the two compatriots. The trial looked to ascertain whether the leaked documents were trade secrets. The first ruling came in favor of LG Display. The court judged that part of the documents contained trade secrets. All five involved individuals — the supplier’s chief and four Samsung Display employees — received four to six months of imprisonment and one to two years suspended sentence.
The court found the convicts not guilty in the second trial
A second trial on the case followed and the ruling this time went against LG Display. The court found that the information in the documents was already widely available in the industry through research papers. Additionally, it was ruled that the technology that LG is contending for has been mixed with technology jointly developed with the supplier. Distinguishing between the two was difficult. As such, the judge acquitted all five individuals of the charges.
The ruling said the court couldn’t establish that the four Samsung employees intentionally tried to acquire confidential information from a rival. The purchases could also have been part of normal work. The Supreme Court has now upheld the second ruling. Neither party has commented on the latest ruling from the country’s top court.
Interestingly, Samsung and LG had also been in another legal battle concerning OLED technology in the past. This case revolved around a similar matter but the other way around. A former Samsung Display researcher shared the company’s OLED technology with LG Display employees. The court convicted all individuals involved in 2019.