A Chinese national will serve 27 months in federal prison after he admitted to stealing trade secrets from two businesses in Irvine, California.
The 46-year-old man was sentenced in federal court in Santa Ana, California.
The man entered guilty pleas to six counts of unauthorized possession and attempted possession of trade secrets in May 2018. He was employed at two med-tech firms from January 2009 until November 2012, when he was arrested.
At each of his places of employment, he made copies of several documents that contained trade secrets and technical information, then transferred what he had learned to his home computer.
According to court documents, while he was employed at the labs, the man traveled to China several times. His plan was to start a business in the country to make medical devices based on the technical blueprints he took from the American companies. The devices he intended to make would have treated vascular problems.
While in China, he applied to the government there for funding to attract talent to work at the company and was granted about $328,000. He also was given three years of free laboratory space in a technology park. The financing and lab space came via a program sponsored by China to entice scientists from the country to return home with "intellectual property to develop biomedical technology," according to prosecutors.
At the time of his arrest, the man was preparing to fly to China.
It likely was vigilance by both the labs and the government that helped to thwart the man's plan. Laws governing trade secrets are there to protect the companies that make great investments of both time and money to invent products, having them tested and approved, before putting them on the market. An intellectual property attorney can offer advice on how to protect those trade secrets.