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FTC says Hanwha stole contractor’s technology

Oct 01,2019
Hanwha stole solar panel technology from a contractor to develop manufacturing devices of its own, ruled Korea’s corporate regulator.

The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) said Monday that it fined Hanwha 382 million won ($318,750) and referred the company and three employees to prosecutors for appropriating solar panel screen printing technology from a contractor.

The technology allows the company to build devices that screen-print solar cells onto panels, rather than individually manufacturing the panels.

The FTC investigation found internal documents from October 2014 shared between Hanwha and its customer - Hanwha Q Cells, also under Hanwha Group - that detailed Hanwha’s plans to develop the devices based on its contractor’s technology. Hanwha, at the time, did not share its plan with the contractor, which had supplied the company with the devices and information on related technology since 2011.

The device, manufactured by Hanwha, was ultimately delivered to Hanwha Q Cells’ Malaysia unit in July 2015.

The regulator added that Hanwha’s device employs functions similar to its contractor’s device, unlike devices from other manufacturers.

A spokesperson for Hanwha said that the devices in question were manufactured based on the company’s own technology, adding that it will consider taking legal steps after reviewing the FTC’s measures.

The FTC explained that Hanwha and the undisclosed contractor originally made an agreement in 2011 to supply solar panel screen printers for Hanwha’s subsidiaries. Through its business relationship, Hanwha also received technology related to the printing devices until September 2014.

An official at the regulator said that it conducted an investigation after a complaint from the contractor.

The FTC’s measures against Hanwha mark the first time that a large corporation has been punished for appropriating technology from a smaller company.

BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]