Three Chinese professors were among six people charged in federal court with stealing trade secrets from two U.S. companies, including one based in San Jose, and sharing them with a university in China to obtain contracts.
The stolen U.S. trade secrets were used by Tianjin University in China to build a film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) fabrication facility that would obtain commercial and military contracts, according to an indictment filed in April in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
"As today's case demonstrates, sensitive technology developed by U.S. companies in Silicon Valley and throughout California continues to be vulnerable to coordinated and complex efforts sponsored by foreign governments to steal that technology," Assistant Atty. Gen. John Carlin said Tuesday in a statement.
The 32-count indictment alleges Wei Pang, 35, and Hao Zhang, 36, both professors at Tianjin University, worked with the four other defendants to develop a business plan in 2006 and 2007 to start manufacturing FBAR technology, a type of radio frequency filter. All the defendants are Chinese citizens.
Zhang was arrested Saturday when he entered the United States, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
In developing their plan, the group developed relationships with officials at Tianjin, which is controlled by the People's Republic of China.
Pang, Zhang and others stole source code, specifications, design layouts, presentations and other confidential documents from Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions, according to the indictment.
They then shared the information with each other and people working for Tianjin University.
It started in 2008 when officials with Tianjin flew to San Jose to meet with Pang, Zhang and their alleged co-conspirators to discuss plans to start a FBAR technology facility in China, according to the document.
After the meeting, Tianjin officials agreed to sponsor Pang and Zhang.
Pang was working at Avago Technologies, a San Jose-based designer, developer and supplier of FBAR technology, after graduating from USC with a doctorate in electrical engineering. He worked at the company's facility in Fort Collins, Colo.
Zhang was employed at Skyworks Solutions, a Massachusetts–based company specializing in high-performance analog semiconductors. He also graduated from USC with a doctorate in electrical engineering.
At USC, Pang and Zhang studied FBAR technology through funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Zhang designed and developed FBAR technology, which is mostly used in mobile devices including GPS, cellphones and tablets. FBAR supports military and defense communication technology.
The pair continued working at the companies until 2009, when they resigned and accepted jobs at Tianjin University. With the help of Zhang and Pang, the university later formed ROFS Microsystems, which produced FBAR technology in the state-sponsored Tianjin Economic Development Area.
Jinping Chen, 41, also a professor at Tianjin University, is accused of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets. He was a board member for ROFS Microsystems.
The other defendants are Chong Zhou, 26; Huisui Zhang, 34; and Zhao Gang, 39. They are charged with conspiracy to commit economic espionage and conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets.
Huisui Zhang attended USC with Pang and Hao Zhang.