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2 Indicted on Trade-Secret Theft Charges : Technology: Symantec’s chairman and an employee are accused of stealing inside information from Borland.

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In a closely watched battle over trade-secret protection and job-hopping, a grand jury in Santa Cruz on Thursday indicted a Silicon Valley software executive and one of his employees on charges that they stole inside information from a rival company.

Gordon Eubanks, chairman and founder of Symantec Corp., was accused of 11 counts of receiving stolen property and conspiracy. Eugene Wang, a software engineer who left Borland International last September to join Symantec, was charged with 21 criminal counts of conspiracy and trade-secret law violations.

On the day he announced his resignation, Wang, 35, allegedly sent 12 computer messages containing sensitive Borland corporate secrets to Symantec. Police officers searching Symantec’s offices in Cupertino and Eubank’s two residences in the Bay Area found evidence that Wang’s messages were received.

Initially, Borland and its brash chairman, Philippe Kahn, were roundly criticized in the industry for drawing the police into what has traditionally been considered private disputes. However, more recently, the case had generated widespread interest in the high-technology community and has focused attention on issues of trade secrecy and corporate loyalty in an industry known for job-hopping.

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Steve Grady, a spokesman for Borland, based in Scotts Valley, said the company had no comment on the indictments. Symantec spokesman Brian Fox called the charges “unfounded” and without merit and said the company is confident they will be dismissed.

Borland and Symantec both are leading makers of computer software programming, especially in the database and languages arenas. Symantec is also the parent company of Peter Norton Computing, a Santa Monica-based company that supplies personal computer software.

Because trade-secret theft can be difficult to prove, the Borland case is considered a rare and important test of the strength of laws protecting corporate secrets.

“This is really unusual, to get a criminal indictment arising out of a trade-secret theft,” said Jeffrey S. Kingston, a San Francisco lawyer with a specialty in computer litigation.

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Kingston said the case could set a precedent on the question of privacy of electronic mail messages, a ubiquitous form of communication in today’s computerized offices. Borland’s retrieval of computer messages sent by Wang to Eubanks--messages retrieved with software developed by Symantec’s Peter Norton division--formed the basis for its case and led to the indictments, authorities said.

Lazzareschi reported from Los Angeles and Groves from San Francisco.


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