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
The U.S. Justice Department has charged members of the Chinese military with allegedly engaging in economic espionage against American companies. It’s the first time that the United States has leveled such charges against agents of a foreign country. But with the accused in China, is this more bluster than bombshell? Or are actual prosecutions possible?
A federal grand jury empanelled at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (where most of the target companies are located) returned an indictment against five members of a Chinese military unit in Shanghai, accusing them of conspiring to hack into the computer systems of six American companies. READ MORE
A prosecutor opened the economic espionage trial of Walter Liew on Wednesday by waving at jurors a key that he alleged opened Liew’s safe deposit box containing industrial secrets stolen from DuPont.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Hemann led jurors through an almost cinematic scene that culminated with FBI agents confronting Liew and his wife, Christina, with the key found during a search of their Orinda, California home. Liew sat at the defense table during opening statements in San Francisco, as did co-defendant Robert Maegerle, a former DuPont employee. READ MORE
A federal judge questioned prospective jurors closely Tuesday for signs of anti-China bias in the industrial espionage trial of a U.S. citizen who prosecutors say fed secrets to a Chinese company.
Prosecutors allege that Walter Liew, who is of Malaysian descent, stole manufacturing secrets from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and sold them to a company the Chinese government purportedly controlled. His lawyers say there was little secret about DuPont’s techniques for making titanium dioxide, a white pigment used in painting paper and plastic, and that the Chinese government did not orchestrate Liew’s activities or that of a Chinese company, the Panang Group, at the center of the case. (We previously commented on the government’s inability to serve the foreign-based company.) READ MORE
It’s been a hot year in the trade secrets field, with some huge verdicts and settlements, a renewed spotlight on cyberattacks, and an unusual flurry of trade secrets legislation. Trade Secrets Watch’s 2013 Year-in-Review highlights the notable trade secrets activity from the past year. READ MORE
Just before the Thanksgiving holiday last week, Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced the Future of American Innovation and Research Act, a new trade secrets bill that would allow American trade secrets owners to sue entities who misappropriate trade secrets outside the United States, or who misappropriate trade secrets on behalf of foreign entities. The bill tracks the Uniform Trade Secret Act’s definitions of “trade secret” and “misappropriation,” and includes standard remedies of damages and injunctive relief. One interesting addition is that it would READ MORE
The U.S. Department of Defense issued final rulemaking on November 18, 2013 that will require DOD contractors to protect from attack confidential technical information on their computer systems, and to report and cooperate with DOD in the event that this information is compromised through a cyberattack. The rules come nearly two years after draft rules were first announced and in the midst of continuing public concern about the threat of state-sponsored trade secrets theft. READ MORE
On February 28, 2008, Hanjuan Jin, a Chinese-born former software engineer for Motorola, arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport en route to Beijing. During a random customs check, officials discovered that she had a one-way ticket to China, $31,252 in cash, thousands of confidential documents regarding Motorola’s iDEN cell phone technology, and ties to the Chinese military. Her excuse for travelling with thousands of confidential and proprietary Motorola documents in her suitcase? Jin said that she planned to refresh her knowledge of the work she had done over the past years with Motorola, “so that I can prepare myself for further career going [sic].” READ MORE
Trade secret theft knows no borders in an age of cybertheft and global corporate espionage. But U.S. district courts are often too slow and procedurally ill-equipped to help in cases of international misappropriation, with several recent cases never getting off the ground because of problems serving foreign defendants. Increasingly, victims of foreign misappropriation are turning to the U.S. International Trade Commission — a body armed to hit back at trade secret thieves anywhere in the world.
For companies seeking to remedy the theft of trade secrets by overseas perpetrators, the options have been limited, especially if the thief or the products the thief produces are outside of the United States. Procedural hurdles like obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign company, or the perpetrator’s resident country being inhospitable to claims by an American victim, can thwart an American corporation’s ability to prosecute the foreign theft of its own trade secrets.
An ITC action doesn’t present these obstacles. READ MORE
There’s been a lot of news lately about the Chinese military allegedly launching cyber attacks to steal U.S. trade secrets. This has gotten people riled up, including the President of the United States, who issued a 5-point plan for protecting American trade secrets. The White House called on the public to make suggestions for new federal legislation to combat this growing threat. (Submissions were due April 22, 2013.)
This is a time of great opportunity to do something big to protect U.S. trade secrets. Unfortunately, some proposed solutions aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity. Some industry groups, for example, have suggested adopting new federal trade secret legislation that would not preempt state laws and only cover cases of “international misappropriation,” or only cover misappropriation by or for the benefit of foreign governments, companies, or individuals.
Respectfully, measures of this type don’t address the real issue and aren’t seizing the moment. The real lesson of Chinese cyberhacking is not that China has hackers targeting America, but that U.S. companies’ trade secrets are READ MORE