Contract chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp (UMC, 聯電) yesterday said it would appeal a local district court’s ruling that found it and three employees guilty of stealing and misappropriating trade secrets from Micron Technology Inc’s local units.
The Taichung District Court yesterday imposed a NT$100 million (US$3.36 million) penalty against the world’s No. 3 chipmaker, after ending two-and-a-half years of investigations.
UMC employees Ho Chien-ting (何建廷), Wang Yong-ming (王永銘) and Rong Le-tien (戎樂天) were found guilty of breaching the Trade Secrets Act (營業秘密法) by leaking sensitive information to Hsinchu-based UMC after leaving Micron, the ruling said.
Ho was sentenced to five years and six months in jail, while Wang and Rong received jail sentences of four years and six months and six years and six months respectively.
The court also fined them a total of NT$15 million, which is less severe than the maximum fine of NT$20 billion.
“UMC did not breach the trade secrets law. The company will appeal the guilty ruling and the heavy penalty,” UMC said in a statement following the ruling.
The DRAM process technology at the core of the lawsuit was developed by UMC’s 300 engineers over more than two years, building on UMC’s own technological capabilities, the chipmaker said in the statement.
UMC was developing DRAM chip manufacturing technologies in collaboration with China’s Fujian Jin Hua Integrated Circuit Co (晉華集成電路) through a Chinese subsidiary.
The project was terminated in 2017 after UMC and the three employees were indicted for allegedly illegally replicating the US memory chipmaker’s manufacturing techniques for UMC‘s businesses in China.
UMC said that there were flaws in the investigation, such as coerced false confessions.
Micron said that “it is grateful to the court and to Taiwan law enforcement authorities for their fair and balanced handling of the criminal trade secret misappropriation case.”
“We are pleased that the court found UMC and the three employees named in the lawsuit guilty and that justice has been served,” it said.
The misappropriation of trade secrets and their transfer outside of Taiwan is detrimental to the nation’s entire semiconductor industry and threatens future competitiveness, Micron said.
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