According to a Korea Times report from Monday, Samsung and LG Display (NYSE:LPL) have agreed to end their OLED patent disputes with the help of mediation from the South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
The legal wrangling began last September when Samsung Display filed an injunction against LG, claiming its employees stole technology related to Samsung's OLED development. LG then quickly filed suit, simultaneously claiming its behemoth competitor violated seven of LG's patents and seeking a complete sales ban on Samsung's OLED devices. Naturally, Samsung filed a countersuit shortly afterward asserting the patents in question lacked innovation and should be nullified.
Meanwhile in Japan, Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Panasonic (OTC:PCRFY) were busy making good on last year's promise to collaboratively "develop and commercialize [their] own competitive, high-performance, next-generation OLED televisions and large-sized displays." Sure enough, at last month's Consumer Electronics Show, both companies unveiled eerily similar products in the world's first 4K 56-inch OLED televisions.
Not to be outdone at CES 2013, Samsung showcased the world's first curved large-screen OLED display at the show, and LG's 55-inch model weighs just 12.5 pounds and is a mind-boggling 4 millimeters thick. Even more intriguing, LG was recently tasked by the Korean government with producing a 60-inch transparent, flexible OLED television by 2017.
Of course, both Samsung and LG revealed their first large-screen OLED televisions at CES more than a year ago, and the stage is set for the products to become commercially available in the U.S. within the next few months. Even so, while the Japanese televisions are still nowhere near commercialization, the fact the OLED TV market is no longer a two-horse race was more than enough to kick the Korean archrivals into cooperation mode.
When the dust settles, Samsung and LG will likely sign a cross-licensing agreement to give both companies free rein on each others' OLED patents, effectively thwarting unnecessary chest-thumping and encouraging Korean innovation to resume.
Another OLED winner
Amid all the competition, then, how can investors make money regardless of who wins the OLED race? Consider OLED specialist Universal Display (NASDAQ:OLED), which not only profits from providing host materials to the OLED industry but also licenses its massive hoard of patents to all four of the aforementioned companies.
Up until now, Universal Display's coffers have been primarily filled by millions of OLED screens incorporated into Samsung's smartphones. Going forward, however, as economies of scale improve and OLED TV production starts picking up steam, it's a safe bet Universal Display's revenue from licensing and material sales will increase dramatically. When that happens, patient PANL shareholders can expect their portfolios to follow suit.