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Trade Secret/Economic Espionage Cases - U.S. v. Say Lye Ow (N.D. Cal.)

Department of Justice


Trade Secret/Economic Espionage Cases

December 11, 2001

U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of California
11th Floor, Federal Building
450 Golden Gate Avenue,
Box 36055
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 436-7200
Fax: (415) 436-7234

Silicon Valley Man Sentenced to Economic Espionage Act Violation Relating to Intel Trade Secrets

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced that Say Lye Ow was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose, California, on his guilty plea to a felony charge of copying a trade secret in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. Judge Fogel sentenced Mr. Ow to a term of imprisonment of 24 months and a term of supervised of release of two years to follow the prison term. Mr. Ow was ordered to surrender himself to begin serving his prison sentence on January 15, 2002. Judge Fogel previously issued a preliminary order of forfeiture regarding the criminal forfeiture of Mr. Ow’s interest in the computer system which he used to commit and facilitate the commission of the copying a trade secret offense. A final order of forfeiture will be issued in the near future. Mr Ow, 31 a resident of Sunnyvale, California, and a citizen of Malaysia, was originally indicted by a federal Grand Jury on March 29, 2000. A superseding indictment was filed on March 14, 2001, which charged him with three counts of theft of trade secrets in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1832(a)(2) and (a)(3), one count of computer fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1030(a)(4), and one count alleging the criminal forfeiture pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 1834(a)(2). He pled guilty on September 14, 2001, to a superseding information charging him with copying of a trade secret in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1832(a)(2) and admitted to the criminal forfeiture.

According to the superseding information and plea agreement, Mr. Ow copied without authorization computer files relating to the design and testing of the Merced microprocessor (now known as the Itanium microprocessor). At the time, Mr. Ow knew that the materials contained trade secrets belonging to Intel Corporation. He copied the trade secret information with intent to convert it to his own economic benefit by using it at his then new employment at Sun Microsystems. He also knew at the time that his act would injure Intel Corporation, in that he . as a former employee of Intel . possessed Intel’s extremely valuable trade secret information without its knowledge. He also agreed that the information he copied was in fact a trade secret and that it was related to a product that was produced for and later placed in interstate and foreign commerce. The Itanium microprocessor was under joint development by Intel and Hewlett-Packard Co. since 1994 and was released earlier this year.

Mr. Ow also agreed to the criminal forfeiture of his interest in the computer system which was located at his residence and which he used to commit and facilitate the commission of the copying a trade secret offense. Prior to imposing the two-year prison sentence, Judge Fogel stated that the key point in a case such as this is the gravity of what happens when people steal intellectual property of such enormous value. U.S. Attorney David W. Shapiro said, “People and companies who steal intellectual property are thieves just as bank robbers are thieves. In this case, the Itanium microprocessor is an extremely valuable product that took Intel and HP years to develop. These cases should send the message throughout Silicon Valley and the Northern District that the U.S. Attorney’s Office takes seriously the theft of intellectual property and will prosecute these cases to the full extent of the law.” The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the High Tech Squad of the San Jose Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property (“CHIP”) Unit of the United States Attorney’s Office. Ross W. Nadel, the Chief of the CHIP Unit, is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted the case, with the assistance of Lauri Gomez. Sun Microsystems, the new employer to which Mr. Ow took the trade secret information, and Intel Corporation were fully cooperative in assisting the authorities in investigating and prosecuting this case. This is the second case within a week in San Jose in which a defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for a violation of the Economic Espionage Act. Last week, on December 4, 2001, Mihakel K. Chang was sentenced in a separate case to a term of imprisonment of 12 months on his guilty plea to a theft of trade secrets in violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. A copy of the press release regarding the sentencing in that case is attached. These cases highlight the importance of investigations of and prosecutions for violations of the federal laws protecting intellectual property rights.

A copy of this press release and related court documents may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can. All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross W. Nadel at (408) 535-5035 or Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew J. Jacobs at (415) 436-7181.


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