IMAX lawsuit claims former employee stole technology secrets and made copycat projectors in China

Claiming a trail of corporate espionage from Canada to China and then to an office on West Magnolia Boulevard, IMAX Corp. has accused a Burbank company and its international affiliates of using stolen technology to distribute IMAX copycat giant-screen movie projectors around the globe.

In a lawsuit filed Aug. 12 in Los Angeles Superior Court, IMAX claims competitor GDC Technology obtained trade secrets stolen by a former IMAX employee — including the software to convert two-dimensional films for use in giant 3-D projectors — through partnerships with Chinese companies.

GDC Technology has an affiliate in Burbank, which is the first company listed in the lawsuit.

According to the company’s website, it has installed more digital cinema servers in Asia than any other company and has inked deals with Disney, Fox, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. to deploy digital-film projection equipment throughout Latin America.

A company statement sent via email from Connie Wong, marketing manager of GDC Technology’s affiliate in Hong Kong, denied any wrongdoing.

“This lawsuit is baseless,” according to the statement. “None of the products we sell misappropriate any IMAX trade secrets. This lawsuit isn’t even about real trade secrets; it’s about IMAX misusing the legal system to avoid competition.”

Attorneys for IMAX declined to comment, and a company spokesperson could not be reached.

In June, IMAX filed a similar complaint about trade secret misappropriation and unfair competition in federal court, but dropped that suit to pursue the matter in L.A. Superior Court, according to documents.

The IMAX complaint claims that in 2009 former company engineer Gary Tsui, also known as Xiaoyu Cui, stole source code for IMAX’s 3-D conversion process and film re-mastering techniques from its headquarters in Canada and fled to China, where he formed a competing company.

Tsui is not a target of the L.A. Superior Court lawsuit, but according to the claim is a fugitive of related corporate piracy judgments against him in Canada and China.

IMAX claims the stolen technology eventually passed to China Film Giant Screen, which then partnered with GDC and its Burbank affiliate as well as the state-run distributor China Film Group to compete against IMAX.

IMAX operates more than 100 movie theaters in China, but China Film Giant Screen “has become a major rival of IMAX in China” with nearly 50 theaters that offer lower ticket prices, according to a report by the China-based English-language newspaper China Daily.


Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.


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