SAN FRANCISCO — Four former Applied Materials executives have been charged by the U.S. Justice Department in an alleged plot to steal trade secrets from their employer and use them in a competing startup in China.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, the four men allegedly downloaded information from an Applied Materials database related to technology used in the production of LED wafers and plotted to use it to form a new startup to be located in China and the U.S.. The men allegedly downloaded more than 16,000 drawings, discussed their plans in multiple emails and attempted to recruit investors for the startup.
The four men — Liang Chen, Donald Olgado, Wei-Yung Hsu and Robert Ewald — have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets and 11 counts of possessing stolen trade secrets. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Chen was a former vice president and general manager of Applied's alternative energy products division; Hsu was a vice president and general manager within Applied's semiconductor LED division; Olgado was a managing director of engineering within the products business group; and Ewald was a director of energy and environmental systems within the alternative energy products division, according to the U.S. Attorney.
Published reports indicate that Olgado was fired by Applied in 2013, while the other three men all resigned in late 2012.
The charges were handed down late last month and announced last week by U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and John F. Bennett, an FBI special agent in charge. The defendants are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
— Dylan McGrath is the editor-in-chief of EE Times.