A former Intel computer hardware engineer recently agreed to plead guilty to five counts of wire fraud in Massachusetts federal court stemming from his theft of 13 secret documents from Intel’s facility in Hudson, Massachusetts while he was an employee there in June 2008. Biswamohan Pani became an employee of Intel in May 2003 and began looking for a new job in February 2008. He started working at Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD), an Intel competitor, on June 2, 2008, but didn’t quit working at Intel for more than a week thereafter. From June 3 to June 11, 2008, while working at both companies, he allegedly downloaded documents worth over $1 billion in research and development costs that described Intel’s new microprocessors and copied them onto a hard drive for use at AMD. The prosecutors are recommending that the judge sentence Pani to six years in jail. AMD was not charged with any crimes because it did not request the information Pani gathered and did not know what he had done.
Although only wire fraud was involved, this case serves as a good reminder that trade secret misappropriation is not only a matter of civil liability in Massachusetts, but it is a crime as well. Massachusetts General Laws c. 266, § 30(4) includes the theft of trade secrets, “regardless of value,” under the crime of larceny, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. Cases like this one where a huge monetary figure is involved frequently will get law enforcement’s attention.