A former engineer at TSMC - the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company - has been accused of trying to steal some of the company's trade secrets when he was head-hunted for a position at Shanghai Hueli Microelectronics (HLMC) in China.
TSMC accused its former employee of planning to steal information about the company's 28nm process technology after he was found to have made copies of a wide range of documents after he had tendered his resignation.
The documents included information about high performance/low power consumption semiconductor technologies developed by TSMC, according to reports in Taiwan, which suggest that the former employee confessed to the theft of the materials when confronted by company officials. A number of copied documents were also found at his home.
TSMC responded by firing the employee on the spot and calling in the police.
The prosecutors claim that the former TSMC employee travelled to HLMC in December, "where they believe he leveraged the materials stolen from TSMC and accepted a job offered at HLMC".
And yesterday, TSMC formally warned HLMC that it will take legal action if any of the technologies believe to have been compromised by its former employee appear in, or appear to be used by, the company.
It comes at the same time that HLMC has made major investments in a bid to shift to 28nm semiconductor manufacturing. Digitimes reports that earlier this year that "HLMC had headhunted a team of nearly fifty United Microelectronics (UMC) research and development engineers to help the China-based foundry move its 28nm process technology to mass production as early as possible".
It also reports that US manufacturer Micron Technology has also taken legal action against employees at its Taiwanese subsidiaries Inotera Memories and Rexchip Electronics who it accuses of stealing trade secrets and passing them on to companies in China to help them develop memory technologies.
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