Sinovel Wind Group accused of illegally downloading software from former supplier American Superconductor
- guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 June 2013 05.38 EDT
China‘s largest wind-turbine company has been charged with stealing trade secrets from its American former software supplier, the US justice department has announced.
Sinovel Wind Group and two of its executives were indicted in a federal court in Madison, Wisconsin, on Thursday. A former employee of the Massachusetts-based American Superconductor (AMSC) pleaded guilty in Klagenfurt, Austria, to stealing a source code for turbine controllers.
The trio are charged with stealing software developed in the US by downloading it from an AMSC computer in Middleton, Wisconsin, to a computer in Austria.
Sinovel’s deputy director of research and development department, Su Liying, the firm’s technology manager, Zhao Haichun, and Dejan Karabasevic have each been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, theft of trade secrets and wire fraud. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
AMSC, which claimed the stolen software was used in four Sinovel turbines installed in Massachusetts, called for the Obama administration and Congress to re-evaluate the US trade relationship with China.
Daniel McGahn, the company’s president, said: “The fact that Sinovel has exported stolen American intellectual property from China back into the United States, less than 40 miles from our global headquarters, shows not only a blatant disrespect for intellectual property but a disregard for international trade law.” More than 500 AMSC employees worldwide lost their jobs as a result of the theft, he added.
The company said it had filed four civil actions against Sinovel in China in March 2011 after Sinovel broke several contracts, and lodged a criminal complaint against the company and some of its employees, without success.
The attorney for the western district of Wisconsin, John Vaudreuil, said on Friday: “The allegations in this indictment describe a well-planned attack on an American business by international defendants – nothing short of attempted corporate homicide.”
AMSC said the software was designed to regulate the flow of electricity from wind turbines to electrical grids and to keep the turbines operational during a dip in power.
If convicted, Sinovel could face fines of up to $1.6bn (£1bn) for each count, while Su, Zhao and Karabasevic could each be jailed for up to 35 years.