Wed, Mar 20, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Company's secret theft claims leaves TSMC looking dumb


A graduate student at National Chiao Tung University (NCTU, 交通大學) was falsely accused by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufac-turing Corp (TSMC, 台積電) of stealing confidential information on 0.18-micron chips from the company, local media reported yesterday.

On Sunday evening, a TSMC worker saw a copy of the company's manufacturing manual for the advanced 0.18-micron process while making copies at a photocopy shop in Hsinchu City.

After the worker reported the sighting to his supervisor Monday morning, some TSMC officials -- along with police officers from the Hsinchu City Police Headquarters -- raided the photocopy shop around 9am and seized the copy of the manual.

TSMC officials told the police that the company considers the technology for the its 0.18-micron etching processes to be "second-class confidential information" and that the leak of such information could cause the company a significant amount of damage.

Police later went to NCTU to question a student, surnamed Hsu, who had paid the shop to photocopy the manual for him.

According to Hsu, however, he actually downloaded the information from the National Central Library's (國家圖書館), Web site and what he did was absolutely legal.

The TSMC also confirmed later that the company did authorize the library to provide download services of the manual for academic purposes.

However, TSMC workers forgot to remove the confidential status notation on the manual when they passed it to the library and therefore caused the misunderstanding.

According to police, Hsu was very unhappy about TSMC's mistake and did not understand why the chipmaker would make such a big error.

Earlier this month TSMC accused a former manager, Liu Yun-chien (劉芸茜), of stealing information on 12-inch wafer technology.

Liu is now employed by the Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (中芯國際集成電路) in Shanghai.

TSMC is the world's largest made-to-order chipmaker.

Chipmaking has dominated the news recently as a debate on whether eight-inch wafer fabs should be permitted to move to China has been the subject of intense debate in the media and political scrutiny.

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