• United States

Top Via execs indicted for industrial espionage

Dec 08, 20034 mins

The Taipei District Public Prosecutors Office has accused the chairman and the CEO of Via Technologies, a leading vendor of PC chipsets and other semiconductors, of copyright infringement and industrial espionage, a company executive confirmed on Monday.

The prosecutors office has prepared an indictment that accuses Via President and CEO Wenchi Chen and his wife, Via Chairman Cher Wang, as well as Via engineer Jeffrey Chang, of copyright infringement and industrial espionage, said Richard Brown, the company’s associate vice president of marketing.

“We haven’t received the indictment yet and there have been conflicting reports about what it actually involves,” Brown said, noting that Via has been in communication with the prosecutors office. “The indictment should come in the mail over the next couple days.”

As far as Via has been able to ascertain, the charges levelled against Chen, Wang and Chang in the indictment allege that the three conspired and stole technology from one of Via’s customers, networking equipment vendor D-Link, Brown said. The prosecutor has asked for a four-year jail term for Wang and Chen and a three-year sentence for Chang, he said.

All three are innocent of the charges, Brown said.

An official at the prosecutors office declined to comment on the indictment. A spokeswoman for D-Link was out of the office Monday and could not be reached for comment.

In a statement filed with The Taiwan Stock Exchange late Monday, D-Link said that “The current circumstances of this matter do not have (an) immediate impact on D-Link’s operations. …D-Link is currently evaluating (the) impact on the value of the technologies involved in this matter.”

This is not the first time that Via has been embroiled in allegations of stolen intellectual property. The company is currently being sued by Taiwanese optical chip vendor Mediatek, which has accused Via of gaining improper access to Mediatek technology and copying code used in its optical disk controller firmware.

While details of the indictment related to the D-Link case were first leaked to the Taiwanese press on Friday evening, the origins of the case go back to 2000, when Chang resigned from Via to join D-Link, Brown said.

Chang submitted a letter of resignation when he left Via. However, that document and others related to Chang’s resignation were not processed promptly and Chang received around NT$200,000 ($5,854) in salary from Via during the first three months he worked for D-Link and was receiving a salary from D-Link, he said.

“If you’ve got a good engineer, you don’t want to lose him,” Brown said, explaining that Via has sometimes delayed processing documents related to the resignations of key employees when an effort is made to keep them with the company.

In 2001, Chang left D-Link to rejoin Via. After Chang rejoined Via, a D-Link document detailing a simulation program for testing integrated circuits was posted to an FTP server that is owned by Via and accessible to Via employees and the company’s customers, he said.

At that time, D-Link approached Via to demand that Chang be fired from Via for leaking the document but Via refused, Brown said. “There’s no evidence at all that he did that,” he said.

Despite a lack of evidence that Chang posted the document to the Via FTP server, prosecutors seem to be trying to use the salary that Via paid Chang during his time at D-Link as evidence of a plot involving Wang, Chen and Chang to steal technology from D-Link, he said.

However, the allegations just don’t add up, Brown said. Via executives would have to be pretty “stupid” to keep paying a salary to an employee that had been sent to steal information from another company and then post that information on an FTP server that was accessible outside Via, he said.

“It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” Brown said, adding that the chip-testing technology which was allegedly stolen would be of no use to the company.

“We’ve had no products under development in this area whatsoever,” he said.