The U.S. Supreme Court recently resolved a circuit split regarding the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), specifically weighing in on the “exceeds authorized access” provision of the statute. The CFAA subjects to criminal liability anyone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access.” READ MORE
The trial of Xiaorang You (aka “Shannon You”)—the principal research engineer accused of stealing trade secrets from several companies, including Coca-Cola—began on April 6, 2021 in the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville. Ms. You was indicted by a grand jury on February 12, 2019 for theft of trade secrets, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud. The trade secrets were valued at more than $119 million. In August 2020, a superseding indictment added additional charges related to economic espionage.
In July 2018, a federal judge in Wisconsin imposed a $1.5 million penalty—the maximum statutory fine—against Chinese wind turbine manufacturer, Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd., for stealing trade secrets from Massachusetts-based technology company, AMSC Inc. In addition to the fine, Sinovel was sentenced to 1 year probation and ordered to pay $57.5 million in restitution to AMSC, an amount the companies had settled on prior to the ruling. Sinovel also agreed to pay $850,000 to Massachusetts wind turbine operators. READ MORE
On March 30, 2018, in Sandvig v. Sessions, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allowed one of several constitutional challenges to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to survive a motion to dismiss. In doing so, the district court highlighted and analyzed the split between circuits in interpreting the “exceeds authorization” provision and joined the Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits in finding that exceeding authorization means exceeding authorized access and not merely authorized use. READ MORE
On May 3, 2018, the New York Court of Appeals held that data copied onto a server constitutes a tangible reproduction for purposes of liability under the New York Penal Code, marking the end of Sergey Aleynikov’s nine year battle with federal and state prosecutors. Trade Secrets Watch has kept you up to date with the seemingly never-ending saga – most recently here, here, and here.
As a refresher, Programmer Sergey Aleynikov was accused of copying thousands of lines of code from his former employer, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in July 2009. The Second Circuit upheld Aleynikov’s conviction under the National Stolen Property Act (NSPA) and the Economic Espionage Act (EEA), but later prompted legislative changes when it reversed, finding that Aleynikov had not stolen a “good” as defined by the NSPA, nor a trade secret intended for use in interstate or international commerce, as required by the EEA. READ MORE
In 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents caught researchers attempting to smuggle a $75 million trade secret from the United States to China. Unlike the trade secrets we usually discuss, the trade secrets in tow were rice seeds. But not just any rice seeds: these valuable seeds were genetically modified to create proteins used to treat gastrointestinal disease, antibiotic-associated diarrhea, hepatic disease, osteoporosis and inflammatory bowel disease. READ MORE
In January of this year, Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Sinovel Wind Group Co. Ltd. was convicted of stealing trade secrets from U.S. company AMSC Inc. The theft caused AMSC, more than $800 million in losses and forced the company to lay off more than half its global work force. Sinovel’s sentencing—which could include fines exceeding $1 billion and a multiyear probationary period—is scheduled for June 2018. READ MORE
Just over four years ago, in January 2014, a court sentenced former Korn/Ferry regional director David Nosal to one year and one day in prison for violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Espionage Act. Nosal appealed the sentence, but his appeals ultimately failed: the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld Nosal’s sentence, and the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the case. Luckily for Nosal, his 2014 motion for release pending appeal was granted, so he has not served any time during the four years of appeals. READ MORE
The U.S. Supreme Court, which just began a new term on Monday with a full complement of nine justices, is expected to soon decide whether it will hear the appeal of David Nosal, the former Korn Ferry executive whose conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was upheld in a controversial and closely-watched Ninth Circuit decision last year. Nosal submitted his reply brief in support of certiorari on September 19, 2017, responding to the Department of Justice’s opposition submitted two weeks earlier.
Competition from Chinese companies shows no signs of slowing. Likewise, allegations of trade secret theft against Chinese companies are increasingly common. In this case, the U.S. Department of Justice linked allegations of trade secret theft with wire transfers from a Chinese company in order to freeze bank accounts and real property held by several defendants charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets. READ MORE