Six employees of leading local smartphone maker HTC Corp (宏達電), including vice president of product design Chien Chih-lin (簡志霖), were indicted by the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday on charges of leaking trade secrets and breach of trust.
Three of HTC’s suppliers were also indicted for alledgedly helping HTC design executives make false expense claims of more than NT$33 million (US$1.1 million).
Prosecutors said Chien and HTC research and development director Wu Chien-hung (吳建弘), both detained since Aug. 31, planned to open phone design companies in Taiwan and China. They were planning to cooperate with Chinese local governments to start companies and transfer HTC technology, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Chien stole and leaked key designs to his would-be Chinese business partners in Beijing in June. The designs were for a yet-to-be-unveiled HTC smartphone interface.
Chien’s actions were in violation of Article 13 of the Trade Secrets Act (營業秘密法) that bans stealing or unauthorized reproduction, revelation and use of key corporate business secrets, the indictment said.
The indictment added that Chien had colluded with Wu to defraud the company of NT$33.566 million by using fake invoices to inflate their expenses and by demanding rebates from HTC’s suppliers.
Prosecutors are seeking the maximum penalty for Chien, saying he showed no remorse during the investigation, putting forward specious arguments in an attempt to justify his illegal actions.
The other four employees who were indicted are HTC senior manager of design and innovation Huang Kuo-ching (黃國清), senior manager of design and innovation Huang Hung-yi (黃弘毅), manufacturing design department manager Hung Chung-yi (洪琮鎰) and Chen Shih-tsou (陳枻佐), a rank-and-file employee.
All of them, except Hung Chung-yi, confessed to breaking the law in a remorseful manner and the court should be lenient with them, prosecutors said.
In light of Huang Kuo-ching and Huang Hung-yi having settled their dispute with HTC and have been forgiven by the company, prosecutors recommended suspended sentences for the pair.
Prosecutors suggested lenient sentences for the three materials suppliers, saying they were remorseful and very cooperative during the investigation.
Meanwhile, Chien’s actions also constituted a breach of trust as stipulated in the Securities and Exchange Act (證券交易法), which carries a prison sentence ranging from three to 10 years.
The HTC case is the first of its kind since the Trade Secrets Act was revised earlier this year.
Under the revised law, the penalty for leaking corporate trade secrets to China or other countries is one to 10 years in prison and a fine of between NT$3 million and NT$50 million. If the illegal gains in a case surpass NT$50 million, the fine can be two to 10 times the amount of the gains.
“The company expects employees to observe and practice the highest levels of integrity and ethics,” HTC said in a statement. “Protecting the company’s proprietary and intellectual properties, privacy and security is a core fundamental responsibility of every employee. The company does not condone any violation.”
Additional reporting by Rich Chang