Former Toptec CEO and Employees Convicted for Leaking Samsung Display’s 3D Lamination in OLED Technology to China

The Supreme Court of Korea has overturned a previous ruling and handed down prison sentences to the ex-CEO and employees of Toptec, an electronic display manufacturer, for leaking Samsung Display’s 3D lamination in OLED technology to Chinese companies.

Source: Samsung

The leaked technology, known as 3D lamination technology, plays a pivotal role in the production of curved screen edges for Samsung smartphones. Developed through an extensive six-year research effort involving 38 engineers and approximately $117.7 million in investment by Samsung, this technology holds immense value in the highly competitive market of flexible OLED displays.

According to court documents, the former CEO and officials of Toptec Co. were indicted for their involvement in the leak, which occurred in April 2018. They transmitted technical specifications and drawings of the 3D lamination in OLED technology obtained from Samsung to a separate company they established. Subsequently, a portion of the pilfered information was sold to two Chinese entities, while the defendants also manufactured 24 units of 3D lamination production equipment based on the illicit technical drawings. Of these, 16 units were exported to Chinese firms, with attempts made to sell the remaining units.

Initially, a district court had acquitted the accused, contending that the leaked technology did not qualify as a protected business secret due to its alleged disclosure or common knowledge within the industry. However, the appellate court reversed this decision, deeming the technology a part of the frontier technologies officially classified by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy. Consequently, the court concluded that the leaked information did not fall under the purview of publicly available knowledge.

Affirming the appellate court’s judgment, the Supreme Court has now finalized the sentences, with the former Toptec CEO receiving a three-year prison term. Two other high-ranking executives from Toptec have been sentenced to two years each, while the company itself faces a significant fine of 100 million won under the joint penal provision. This provision holds employers accountable for the criminal acts committed by their employees.