Theft of Trade Secrets and Wire Fraud

Patents always seem to get the bulk of attention when it comes to intellectual property law, which is pretty interesting to me, considering the protections available to copyrights and trademarks endure longer.  But even less visible, are trade secrets.  From time to time, such as when Joya Wilson and Dirk Dimson (PDF) tried to sell Coca-Cola’s trade secrets to Pepsi, individuals who try to steal trade secrets get prosecuted.

Now a former Intel employee is facing four new wire fraud charges in addition to having already been charged with theft of trade secrets in August.  According to CNet, and others, Biswahoman Pani allegedly had “more than 100 pages of sensitive Intel documents, including 13 “top secret” files with designs for future processor chips” in his home.  Mr. Pani apparently left Intel to work for AMD, but is no longer employed by AMD.

Theft of trade secrets is prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1832, and the AUSA trying the case (or trial attorney if its deemed that important) in the District of Massachusetts will have to prove a number of elements beyond a reasonable doubt, such as: there was intent to convert a trade secret; that it relates to a product placed in interstate or international commerce; that there’s an economic benefit to anyone but the proper owner; that there was intent to, or knowledge that it would, injure any owner of that trade secret; and any of a whole slew of other acts such as steal, copy, or possess the information.

Wire fraud is quite a bit different, and the CNet article is silent as to what the theory behind the four superseding charges are.  The US Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts has not posted a press release on its website setting out some details about how its wire fraud theory operates.  Generally speaking, wire fraud involves devising a scheme or artifice to defraud, and then carrying out the scheme using telecommunications.