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Chinese National Engineer Accused of IP Theft

Intellectual property is fiercely protected and fought for between people, corporations and even countries.

The two largest superpowers in the world, China and the United States, have been engaged in a lengthy trade war that has ignited with the Trump administration, and the battle for IP has increased within the last decade as China struggles to regain the kind of economic growth rates it once saw.

IP represents big money. Intangible assets, which include IP, make up 80% of the value of S&P 500 companies according to the Harvard Business Review.

Consider the recent case of Shannon You, who stole trade secrets estimated to be valued at $119 million and sent them back to her partner in crime at a company in China. As an engineer for Coca Cola, You was one of a limited number of employees to have access to top-secret information about the development of BPA-free (bisphenol-A/BPA) coatings for containers. Beverage cans, for example, are known to have BPA which can be toxic to humans. 

The Department of Justice alleges that You was rewarded for her theft with financial grants and the promise of a share in the new Chinese company, a company that was literally built on the foundation of stolen information.

Part of the larger conspiracy included a plan to manufacture products based on the stolen trade secrets in an attempt to undermine U.S. companies using their own IP, according to the DOJ.

This approach has been taken by many other Chinese nationals who have been arrested in recent years for IP theft and infringement of U.S. information with the intention of selling to China. It seems as though this has become the standard protocol for many Chinese firms, ostensibly sanctioned by the Chinese government, especially as U.S.-China trade relations have become further strained under the Trump administration. 

Experts have posited that China aims to dilute the U.S. economy by flooding it with competition and manipulating its own currency to devalue U.S. companies. The tactic has so far resulted in a massive trade surplus for China, which, in turn, it uses to continue these attacks. 

While the DOJ and U.S. cybersecurity experts scramble to prosecute these crimes and prevent further attacks, China continues to find ways to access secrets and use them against us. Now, it’s about when and how the battle will come to ahead.

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