Four former engineers at Applied Materials were charged by the US with trying to steal chip designs from the semiconductor equipment giant to sell them to a Chinese start-up, which may fuel fears the world’s second-largest economy is resorting to illegal tactics to break its dependence on chip imports, the South China Morning Post reports.
Liang Chen, Donald Olgado, Wei-Yung Hsu and Robert Ewald are accused of downloading data from Applied’s internal engineering database, including more than 16,000 drawings, and plotting to lure investors to fund a US and China-based start-up that would compete with their former employer, prosecutors said in a statement. The stolen specs detailed Applied’s processes for high-volume manufacturing of chips used to light and electrify flat-screen TVs and smartphones.
If convicted, the four face as long as 10 years in federal prison for each of 11 counts of possessing stolen trade secrets. They’re expected to be arraigned on December 15 in San Jose, California.
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