TAIPEI, Taiwan—U.S. memory chipmaker Micron scored a major legal victory after a local court found two of its former employees guilty of passing trade secrets to a Chinese company.
Two engineers at Taiwanese contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC) leaked technology from their former employer and used the trade secrets in a cooperation project with Chinese state-owned semiconductor manufacturer Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit, the court ruled. Their supervisor was also convicted for his involvement in the scheme.
The district court in central Taiwan’s Taichung City on June 12 sentenced the three UMC staff to prison for 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 years. It also found UMC guilty of violating Taiwan’s law on trade secrets and fined it NT$100 million (about $3.37 million).
UMC, Fujian Jinhua, the two engineers, and another UMC employee were indicted on similar charges by U.S. federal prosecutors in November 2018.
UMC and Fujian Jinhua signed a partnership in January 2016, with the latter providing $700 million in equipment and research funding to the Taiwan company for developing manufacturing process for making dynamic random access memory (DRAM) chips. Fujian Jinhua would then use that process to mass-produce the chips.
DRAMs are semiconductor memory chips that store data within digital products.
That same month, UMC created a “new business development center” in southern Taiwan’s Tainan city, for the sole purpose of creating the manufacturing process for Fujian Jinhua. The center was headed by Chen Zhengkun, former president of Micron’s Taiwan subsidiary, Micron Memory Taiwan (MMT). He resigned from MMT in July 2015, then joined UMC not long after.
According to the U.S. indictment, Chen recruited many MMT employees into working at UMC, including Ho Chien-ting and Wang Yung-ming, who joined UMC in November 2015 and March 2016, respectively.
Taiwan’s prosecutors found that before joining UMC, Ho downloaded Micron’s trade secrets
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