The wife of a California businessman who was convicted of stealing trade secrets from DuPont has avoided jail time for her part in the scheme.

As we discussed in this blog, Walter Liew was the founder of a company called USA Performance Technology Inc.

Titanium

Prosecutors claimed that Robert Maegerle, a former DuPont engineer, shared DuPont’s trade secrets with Liew and that Liew then used the information to help companies funded by the Chinese government build new titanium dioxide plants.

DuPont made special efforts to protect its proprietary process for making titanium dioxide pigment used to make paper, cars, and other products appear whiter.  The company required employees to sign codes of conduct and swore them to secrecy each year. It also prohibited cellphones and cameras in its plants, and used on-site guards in its titanium dioxide factories.

According to prosecutors, Liew and Maegerle earned $28 million as a result of the theft.

Conspiracy

In March of 2014, a federal jury found Liew guilty of stealing the trade secrets, in addition to other offenses. Specifically, he was found guilty of:

  • conspiracy to commit economic espionage
  • possession of trade secrets
  • tampering with witnesses and evidence
  • filing false tax returns
  • making false statements in bankruptcy proceedings

Liew was the first person convicted of economic espionage by a US jury, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was also ordered to pay back the $28 million he earned.

His wife, Christina Liew, pled guilty to conspiracy to tamper with evidence as part of a plea agreement. She was a co-founder of their company and was also charged with

  • conspiracy to commit economic espionage
  • conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets
  • attempted theft of trade secrets
  • possession of trade secrets
  • witness tampering
  • false statements

In sentencing her to three years of probation rather than prison time, the judge noted that the couple had a son that needed a parent’s care and that he should not be punished for his parents’ misdeeds.

The case is U.S. v. Christina Liew et al.

Takeaway

US courts are increasingly willing to treat trade secret cases as criminal rather than merely civil matters, and this should enhance the disincentives to commit trade secret theft.

About Us

Leech Tishman’s Intellectual Property Group is based in Pasadena, California with a team of highly-regarded legal professionals with prosecution and litigation expertise in the fields of patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets.

Please also visit us online for more information about our services.

Photo Attribution: “DuPont Chestnut Run Plaza entrance” by Littleinfo – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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