From corn to Apple: The cases behind the U.S.-China standoff

“To hear the Americans tell it, the Chinese have gone on a commercial crime spree, pilfering trade secrets from seed corn to electronic brains behind wind turbines. China has stripped the arm off a T-Mobile robot, the U.S. says, and looted trade secrets about robotic cars from Apple,” Paul Wiseman and Michael Liedtke report for The Associated Press. “The alleged victims of that crime spree are individual American companies, whose cases lie behind the Trump administration’s core complaint in the high-level U.S.-China trade talks going on in Washington: That Beijing systematically steals American and other foreign intellectual property in a bid to become the world’s technology superstar.”

“Determined to attain dominance in cutting-edge fields from robotics to electric cars, U.S. officials charge, Beijing is not only stealing trade secrets but also pressuring American companies to hand over technology to gain access to the vast Chinese market. U.S. intelligence officials told Congress this week that China poses the biggest commercial and military threat to the United States. A separate report this week said Beijing will steal or copy technologies it can’t make itself,” Wiseman and Liedtke report. “U.S. business groups broadly support the Trump administration’s decision to confront China over its strong-arm tech policies.”

“Beijing typically doesn’t dispatch spies on missions of commercial espionage. Rather, it encourages Chinese who study and work abroad to copy or steal technology and rewards them when they do,” Wiseman and Liedtke report. “So U.S. companies might have no reason to suspect anything — until a Chinese employee leaves and the employer discovers that trade secrets have been compromised.”

“A secretive project that could become a future gold mine has been infiltrated by thieves trying to steal driverless car technology for a Chinese company, according to criminal charges filed in Silicon Valley. The FBI seized the latest suspect, Apple engineer Jizhong Chen, this month after he bought a plane ticket to China,” Wiseman and Liedtke report. “Chen and the other suspect charged in July, Xiaolang Zhang, were part of an Apple project focused on self-driving cars, according to the sworn affidavits from FBI agents. The two are accused of using their access to labs where only 1,200 of Apple’s 140,000 employees were allowed to enter to steal trade secrets.”

“The alleged theft occurred while Zhang was preparing to defect to Xiopeng Motors, or XMotors, a Chinese startup specializing in electric cars and self-driving technology. XMotors’ backers include Alibaba Group, China’s largest e-commerce company, and Foxconn, one of Apple’s major contractors in China. Zhang was arrested last year as he prepared to board a flight to China in San Jose, California, the FBI said,” Wiseman and Liedtke report. “The FBI also alleged that Chen was stealing Apple’s trade secrets while interviewing for a job at a Chinese company that wasn’t named in the court documents.”

Much more, including details about the T-Mobile robot, DRAM, and other cases of IP theft, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Most anyone who works at major U.S. company has similar tales of IP theft, publicly reported or not.

Another Chinese national accused of stealing Apple autonomous vehicle trade secrets – January 30, 2019
Former Apple employee pleads not guilty in trade secret case – July 17, 2018
Former Apple engineer faces up to 10 years in jail, $250,000 fine over the theft of autonomous vehicle secrets – July 11, 2018
Criminal case reveals details of Apple’s self-driving car technology – July 11, 2018
China’s XMotors claims employee did not pass along Apple autonomous driving trade secrets – July 11, 2018
Former Apple employee charged with criminal theft of autonomous vehicle secrets – July 10, 2018


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