摩尔芯闻 > 行业新闻 > 半导体 > 彭博社:美工程师被控为中国公司盗取Applied Materials技术

彭博社:美工程师被控为中国公司盗取Applied Materials技术

半导体行业观察 ·2017-12-08 08:55·半导体行业观察
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来源:本文为半导体行业观察翻译自彭博社 ,谢谢。


据彭博社报道,美国政府日前起诉了四位曾在Applied Materials工作过的工程师,按照美方的说法,这四人涉嫌从美国半导体设备巨头偷取芯片设计技术,并将其出售给中国初创公司。


诉讼指出,Liang Chen, Donald Olgado, Wei-Yung Hsu 和 Robert Ewald四人从Applied Materials的内部工程师数据库下载了包括16000张图纸在内的敏感数据,借此吸引投资者去支持一个初创公司,和其前雇主直接竞争。检控官在周三指出,这些被偷的资料是Applied Materials有关大批量制造平板和智能手机芯片的技术。


如果最终被定罪,他们将会因为非法窃取商业机密而被判处最少十一年监禁。最终结果最快坏在美国时间12月15日公开宣布。


应用材料的发言人表示,他们一贯以来对公司的IP进行高度保护,防止不被授权的查看和盗用,在这个事件中,他们完全支持检方的决定。借此事他们想向公众说明,不合法窃取公司的IP是会受到法律制裁的。他们拒绝对这个诉讼进行进一步的评价。


is-content="t" style="box-sizing: border-box;line-height: 1.8;padding-right: 10px;padding-left: 9px;z-index: 10000;background: rgb(255, 255, 255);"> 知识产权

应用材料在集成电路产业中充当一个关键角色,作为全球最大的设备供应商,他们提供的设备是芯片制造过程中必不可少的。他们在芯片制造领域的经验和知识产权都是基于其过去大量生产芯片和总结获得的,尤其是在传统硅材料逐渐到达极限的时候,他们的经验尤其重要。


中国是全球最大的半导体消费国,同时是全球最大的终端市场,但是他们的芯片自给率非常低。于是在过去几年内,中国政府正在投入巨大的资金去推动本土的集成电路产业建设,为了发展他们尝试去美国等国家收购相关公司和技术,但遭到了监督者的拒绝。


is-content="t" style="box-sizing: border-box;line-height: 1.8;padding-right: 10px;padding-left: 9px;z-index: 10000;background: rgb(255, 255, 255);"> 进口芯片

在全球最TOP的半导体生产商名单中,并没有中国公司。但在过去几年,中国兴起了一股厂房建设热潮,其中大部分是由其他海外公司所投资的。根据Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.之前的数据显示,中国进口芯片总额已经超过了石油。


根据美国知识产权盗窃委员会今年的一个调查报告显示,美国每年因为伪造产品、盗版软件和窃取商业机密造成的损失超过6000亿美元,他们表示,中国是其中的头号“知识产权侵犯者”,这对美国的相关产品进入终端市场造成了严重的影响。


委员会的报告指出,中国不断从在中国运营的外国公司获取相关IP,这当中当然包括了美国公司。


根据诉讼声明,应用材料的四个前员工窃取的资料是关于在芯片上生成晶体层的复杂制程。也就是俗称的MOCVD,这些技术是应用材料投入数百万美金、经历数年的研发和测试所获得的。根据诉讼,应用材料“Paragon”项目引领了一款叫做NLighten产品的开发。工程师方面也承认,他们想复制并建造相关产品。


is-content="t" style="box-sizing: border-box;line-height: 1.8;padding-right: 10px;padding-left: 9px;z-index: 10000;background: rgb(255, 255, 255);"> 竞争公司

检察官表示,被告人一起工作的2000到2012年期间,他们有计划的窃取MOCVD的技术,并建立了一个叫做Envision的公司。在这过程中,他们用私人邮箱去讨论详细计划,在下载了相关机密文件之后,他们将其上传到Google Drive。并在应用材料Santa Clara办公室removing MOVCD的技术。


is-content="t" style="box-sizing: border-box;line-height: 1.8;padding-right: 10px;padding-left: 9px;z-index: 10000;background: rgb(255, 255, 255);"> 背后的秘密

在2012年底,这四个工程师试图招募来自美国和中国的投资者为Envision注资,检方展出了一份证据,是Olgado和共谋者表示,要把整件事秘密进行。尤其是他们未来投资者在咨询技术来源的时候。


关于这次案件的更多信息,检方并未披露。


在奥巴马任期的最后阶段,他的政府提出警告,指出中国政府正在开发的芯片制造技术会威胁到美国本土的芯片制造商。他们认为,中国自主可控的半导体技术将会威胁到美国的军事安全和经济安全


彭博社称,中国的目标是计划在十年间内投入1500亿美元去打造自主可控的集成电路设计和生产产业。美国为了维持其业界领先地位,需要做一些回应。


“我们认为中国的政策正在扭曲市场,并破坏创新,降低美国半导体产品的市场份额,并严重威胁到美国国土安全”,报告表示。只有继续在前沿技术上投入研发,才能降低中国的威胁。当时报告强调。


延伸阅读: 《白宫阻碍中国半导体崛起的报告全文曝光》


附英文原文:


U.S. Chip Engineers Charged in Theft Scheme for Chinese Firm


Four former engineers at Applied Materials Inc. were charged by the U.S. with trying to steal chip designs from the semiconductor equipment giant to sell them to a Chinese startup, which may fuel fears the world’s second-largest economy is resorting to illegal tactics to break its dependence on chip imports.


Liang Chen, Donald Olgado, Wei-Yung Hsu and Robert Ewald are accused of downloading data from Applied’s internal engineering database, including more than 16,000 drawings, and plotting to lure investors to fund a U.S. and China-based startup that would compete with their former employer, prosecutors said Wednesday in a statement. The stolen specs detailed Applied’s processes for high-volume manufacturing of chips used to light and electrify flat-screen TVs and smartphones.


If convicted, the four face as long as 10 years in federal prison for each of 11 counts of possessing stolen trade secrets. They’re scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 15 in San Jose, California.


“Applied Materials vigorously safeguards its intellectual property from theft or unlawful use," a spokesman for the company said in a statement. “We support the legal action in this criminal case to ensure that anyone who obtained our trade secrets illegally is brought to justice. We cannot comment further on pending legal actions.”


Contact information wasn’t immediately available for attorneys for the four men.


Intellectual Property


Applied plays a pivotal role in the chip industry as the largest supplier of the machinery needed to manufacture the vital electronics components. Much of the expertise and intellectual property value that chip companies have is derived from their mastery of the process technology that goes into producing chips, something that’s becoming increasingly harder as the limits of conventional materials like silicon are reached.


China is the largest consumer of semiconductors as an end market and very little of that demand is met by domestic companies. The government of the world’s most populous country is budgeting billions to build a local industry. Attempts to acquire U.S. chip companies by China-related entities have been blocked by regulators.


Imported Chips


There are no Chinese companies in the list of the world’s top semiconductor makers. While plants are increasingly being located in China, they’re owned by companies from other countries. China’s imports of chips have periodically exceeded the value of its spending on oil, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. research.


Counterfeit goods, pirated software and theft of trade secrets cost the U.S. economy as much as $600 billion a year, according to a 2017 study by the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property. It alleges China is the world’s No. 1 “IP infringer” and the source of almost 90 percent of counterfeit goods entering the U.S. China’s IP practices are a barrier for U.S. companies to invest and access consumer markets.


“China continues to obtain American IP from U.S. companies operating inside China, from entities elsewhere in the world, and of course from the United States directly through conventional as well as cyber means," according to the commission’s report.


The alleged criminal scheme that netted the four former engineers is tied to the complex process of growing crystalline layers on chips called metal organic chemical vapor deposition, technology developed by Applied after “years of research and testing, and millions of dollars in investment,” according to the indictment. Applied’s “Paragon” project led to the development of a consumer product called NLighten, which the engineers allegedly tried to replicate and build on.


Competing Company


Sometime while they worker together at Applied from July 2000 to December 2012, the four employees conspired to steal the MOCVD technology and use it to create a competing company called Envision, according to prosecutors. Using their personal email accounts to detail plans, they allegedly tasked lower-level employees with helping them download confidential material, then stored it on a Google drive account, while physically removing the MOCVD technology from Applied’s offices in Santa Clara, California.


‘Under Wraps’


Late in 2012, they attempted to recruit investors to fund Envision in both the U.S. and China, according to the indictment. Prosecutors cite an email in which Olgado shared with his co-conspirators the need to keep their project “under wraps,” especially among prospective investors who’d independently identified the source of their technology.


The charging papers don’t detail the value of the theft or the amount the engineers sought in funding.


In the final days of President Barack Obama’s term, his administration warned that China’s push to develop its domestic semiconductor technology threatened to harm U.S. chipmakers and put America’s national security at risk. A Chinese dominated semiconductor industry threatens both American military and economic security, according to the report.


China’s goal to achieve a leadership position in semiconductor design and manufacturing, in part by spending $150 billion over a 10-year period, requires an effective response to maintain U.S. competitiveness in the industry, according to the report.


“We found that Chinese policies are distorting markets in ways that undermine innovation, subtract from U.S. market share, and put U.S. national security at risk," according to the report. “’Only by continuing to innovate at the cutting edge will the United States be able to mitigate the threat posed by Chinese industrial policy and strengthen the U.S. economy.”


The case is U.S. v. Chen, 17-cr-00603, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).


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