Samsung’s latest bendable screen technology has been stolen and sold to two Chinese companies, according to prosecutors in South Korea.
The Suwon District Prosecutor’s Office charged 11 people on Thursday with stealing tech secrets from Samsung (SSNLF), the office said in a statement.
The prosecutors allege that a Samsung supplier leaked blueprints of Samsung’s “flexible OLED edge panel 3D lamination” to a company that it had set up. That company then sold the tech secrets to the Chinese firms for nearly $14 million, according to the prosecutors.
They did not name the people or companies involved in the theft.
Samsung Display, a subsidiary of the South Korean conglomerate, said in a statement Friday that it was “surprised and appalled at the results of the investigation by prosecutors.”
The findings come at a time of intensifying competition for new tech among rivals.
Prosecutors said Samsung invested six years and some 150 billion won ($130 million) to develop the bendable screen.
As demand for high-end smartphones begins to wane in key markets, companies have been searching for the next big thing to convince consumers to upgrade their devices.
Samsung’s bendable screen had been hyped as a potential game changer. The company teased the tech at a conference earlier this month, showing images of a new folding smartphone.
Samsung is the world’s largest smartphone maker, accounting for about 20% of global market share last quarter, according to research firm Canalys.
Investigators have not been able to track down and question two Chinese individuals believed to be involved in the case, and have asked Interpol to help find and detain them. Of the 11 people indicted, three have been detained.
A trial date has not yet been set.