A recent federal indictment alleges that four former Silicon Valley executives engaged in a conspiracy to steal their employers’ trade secrets. According to indictment brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, four men who worked as managers and senior engineers at Applied Material, a semiconductor manufacturing company in Santa Clara, California, downloaded over 16,000 technical documents relating to high-volume manufacturing of a semiconductor wafer from the company’s engineering database. The men allegedly planned to use the stolen technology to begin a competing start-up company, for which they tried to recruit investors.
Prosecutors charged the four former executives with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets under 18 U.S.C. 1832(a)(5), and 11 counts of possessing stolen trade secrets under 18 USC 1832(a)(3). If the four men are found guilty, they can face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each count.
TIP: This case serves as a reminder that remedies for trade secret misappropriation extend beyond civil liability, and companies that have been the victim of trade secret theft often work with law enforcement agencies that are increasingly seeking to bring criminal charges against employees—and former employees—who attempt to steal valuable confidential company information.