Four ex-Applied Materials executives charged with stealing trade secerts

Lloyd Doyle
December 8, 2017

Four former executives at a Bay Area semiconductor equipment manufacturing company were charged for their roles in an alleged scheme to steal trade secrets from their employer to start a rival company based in the US and China, officials said.

The four U.S. chip executives- Liang Chen, Wei-Yung Hsu, Robert Ewald, and Donald Olgado are charged by the U.S. Department of Justice of stealing information from Applied's internal engineering database, including more than 16,000 drawings, and planning to use that information in a competing startup based in the U.S. and China.

Four former Applied Materials employees have been charged with stealing the company's chipmaking technology to use as the basis for their own startup.

The stolen intellectual property outlined the processes for manufacturing a high volume of chips that are used to light and electrify flat-screen TVs and smartphones.

The four are scheduled for arraignment later this month in the San Jose Federal Court. The spokesman ended his statement by saying the company could not make any further comment on the legal actions.

A large portion of the expertise and the value of intellectual property that makers of chips possess, comes from the mastery they have of the process technology involved in the producing of chips, something that is becoming more and more harder as limits of conventional materials such as silicon are reached.

Armed with the stolen documents obtained by the group, it is alleged that Chen then sought to convince investors in both the United States and in China to back a semiconductor startup that would have competed with Applied Materials. The Beijing government has budgeted millions to build a local industry.

While China is the largest consumer of semiconductors as an end market, but little of that demand is met by domestic companies, and attempts by China-related entities to acquire US chip companies have been blocked by regulators, according to Bloomberg.

No companies from China are listed as the top semiconductors makers in the world. "We concluded that, while not all Chinese tactics and developments are problematic, many of them could be".

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