A FORMER Intel employee has pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from the firm before joining rival chip vendor AMD.
Biswamohan Pani left Intel in 2008 to join AMD and while that isn't particularly surprising, as the semiconductor industry is an employment merry-go-round, Pani stole chipmaking trade secrets prior to joining AMD. Pani pleaded guilty in a US District Court in Boston to five counts of wire fraud and now faces up to 20 years in prison.
Intel claimed that the documents Pani stole were worth between $200m and $400m. After it reported the theft to authorities, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) eventually recovered the documents, however it is impossible to know for sure how many people had seen them or whether hard or soft copies were made.
Although Pani joined AMD, the chip designer did not instruct Pani to take documents from Intel nor was it aware that Pani had taken them. AMD terminated Pani's employment soon after the theft of trade secrets allegations surfaced and the company cooperated with the investigation.
Pani's decision to take Intel trade secrets over to AMD is shocking not in the crime itself but rather that Pani thought this might endear him to his new employer. Not only would AMD be on the hook if Intel found out it had stolen and used its designs, AMD would learn it was hiring someone who had stolen from his previous employer, not quite a badge of honour.
Pani faces a stiff prison sentence for his actions and his career is now well and truly over. However, whether or not this will deter poorly paid Far East factory workers from flogging low level designs is another matter. µ
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