Last month the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced the second guilty plea from one of five individuals charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) a U.S. pharmaceutical company. According to the press release the theft occurred in order to benefit a Chinese company backed by the Chinese government.
REASONS TO HIGHLIGHT THIS CASE
As an IP protection specialist, investigator and blogger, I am always interested in learning more about how different IP criminal conspiracies work. Uncovering the mechanics of these operations teaches us how to more effectively defend against it, and help minimize exposure. It reminds us all of the many faces of trade secrets theft.
HOW WILL I GO ABOUT IT?
I will dig into public court documents and extract information that will shed light on the overall operation. I will start with the initial criminal complaint filed against the defendants by the FBI special agent assigned to the case. In succeeding posts I will then follow-up with information about the structure of the conspiracy; the defendants professional and personal backgrounds; the roles each of the defendants played; significant findings uncovered during the investigation; and finally the current status of the defendants.
SERIAL INFORMATION – SHARING MODEL
I recognize that we all have only so much time in any given day to consume content, even when it’s useful, so, I will present the content in manageable segments on successive days. I will use this serial content sharing model and post on this topic daily not to exceed 500 words of content per post.
FORMAT OF THE NEXT SEVERAL POSTS
So, over the course of the next several consecutive posts, I will focus on this case and briefly highlight different elements of the case and make some IP protection observations.
WHO WAS CHARGED?
In January 2016, the following five (5) defendants were charged with trade secrets theft:
- YUE XUE;
- TAO LI;
- YAN MEI;
- TIAN XUE; and
- LUCY XI, respectively
The key figure in this conspiracy is YU XUE, a/k/a “Joyce.”
Here is a quote from the complaint,
“YU XUE (“Joyce”) e-mailed … from her GSK e-mail account to her personal account and then forwarded that intellectual property to her conspirators … also used her GSK computer to download a substantial amount of intellectual property from GSK’s network, apparently onto a thumb drive or other portable storage device, to send this information to her conspirators.”
IP PROTECTION OBSERVATION
- Leaping from the above complaint quote is that “Joyce” used a GSK e-mail account to transfer proprietary information to her personal account
- It reinforces the fundamental protection strategy for companies to have robust internal email monitoring systems in place to pick up these types of transfers
- Particularly the transfer of information from a company controlled email account to a personal account
- And her downloading of information to a thumb drive should make any trade secrets owner shiver over how easy that is to do
- From a protection perspective, we are getting to a point in which what an employee is permitted to bring into a work site—and leave with—will need to be strictly regulated (see my October 2017 post titled, “Trade Secrets Protection – Mindfulness”)
IN THE NEXT POST…Part 2…
…we will briefly survey the defendants backgrounds (to the extent information is available) concerning their duties and responsibilities in their mainstream jobs during the conspiracy (in addition to “Joyce”), as well as their education, location of their education, family situation, current country of residence, education and government affiliations, etc.
Were there any other trade secrets theft warning signs?
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