A software engineer who had been employed by IBM has pleaded guilty to economic espionage and theft of a trade secret after admitting stealing proprietary software code belonging to the computer giant.
Jiaqiang Xu pleaded guilty in a court in White Plains, New York. He had been employed by IBM in China for four years from 2010 until May 2014.
The code, according to Reuters, relates to IBM's General Parallel File System (GPFS), a high-performance clustered file system that runs on IBM's AIX Unix (since 1998), Linux (since 2001) and Windows (since 2008), and is widely used in supercomputing.
Xu was picked up by undercover officers in White Plains, where he was recorded offering software based on the stolen code. The FBI was tipped off after it received reports, according to the South China Morning Post, that someone in China "was claiming to have access to the code and using it for business ventures".
The case bears some similarities to a trade secrets case in Taiwan involving semiconductor company TSMC. Earlier this year it accused a departing member of staff of copying documents in order to take to a new employer, Shanghai Hueli Microelectronics (HLMC), on mainland China.
The documents included information about high performance/low power consumption semiconductor technologies developed by TSMC, according to reports in Taiwan, which also indicate 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.
HLMC is bidding to shift its production to 28nm process architectures and has been aggressively recruiting specialists from rivals.
Memory chip-maker 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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