First off, don’t worry, Coca-Cola’s super-secret trade secret recipe is still safe.  But on April 22, 2021, a jury in the Eastern District of Tennessee convicted a former Coca-Cola employee, Dr. Xiaorong (a/k/a Shannon) You, of stealing trade secrets related to BPA-free coatings for the inside of beverage cans for the Chinese Government. The Indictment alleged that the trade secret information cost almost $120 million to develop. The twelve-day in-person trial focused not just on the former employee’s wrong doing, but also on some the best practices Coca-Cola and Eastman Chemical Company used to protect the trade secrets at issue.

Continue Reading Former Coca-Cola Employee Convicted of Stealing Trade Secrets for the Chinese Government

On April 20th, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. introduced Senate bill S. 1245, “The Combating Chinese Purloining (CCP) of Trade Secrets Act.” The full text of the bill is not yet available, but a press release announcing the legislation highlighted key features of the CCP, including:

  • increasing the maximum penalty from 5 to 20 years of imprisonment for individuals who use “communication interception devices” to aid a foreign government;
  • expanding trade secret misappropriation penalties for foreign persons, including by: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection imposing import restrictions, the U.S. Department of Commerce denying export licenses, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejecting applications for patent protection, and the U.S. Department of State denying visas;
  • creating grounds for inadmissibility and deportability for individuals that seek to enter, or remain in, the U.S. to engage in espionage and intellectual property theft; and
  • prohibiting the issuance of visas to Chinese nationals who present a national security risk and to prevent their pursuit of graduate-level coursework in sensitive fields.


Continue Reading Senator Lindsey Graham’s Proposed Legislation Seeks to Combat “Chinese Purloining” of U.S. Trade Secrets

On March 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, along with GOP members of the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, announced legislation to address corporate espionage and foreign influence in Florida. In public remarks about the proposed legislation, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls expressed concern about the threat of China’s influence on local governments and university systems, stating “that there are no limits to the depths to which other countries, especially China, will go to steal our science and technology.”

Continue Reading Florida Lawmakers Seek to Address Corporate Espionage in Proposed Legislation

On May 22, the Eleventh Circuit clarified trade secrets misappropriation analysis under the Florida Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“FUTSA”), strengthening the trade secret protection offered by the statute. The decision vacated a magistrate judge’s finding that the defendants had not misappropriated trade secretes following a bench trial in the Compulife Software Inc. v. Newman et al. matter (No. 18-12004). The court found error in the magistrate’s failure to “consider the several alternative varieties of misappropriation” contemplated by FUTSA and the magistrate’s reasoning that the public availability of life insurance quotes on the plaintiff’s website “automatically precluded a finding that scraping those quotes constituted misappropriation.”

“At its essence, it’s a case about high-tech corporate espionage,” Circuit Judge Kevin C. Newsom’s opinion begins. The plaintiff, Compulife Software Inc. (“Compulife”), sells access to its online database of insurance premium information, which synthesizes publicly available insurers’ rate tables using Compulife’s proprietary method and formula. Compulife also provides life insurance quotes sourced from its online database. The database itself is valuable because it consistently updates with current information about life insurers’ rate tables and allows for direct comparison across dozens of providers. Compulife licenses access to the database to its customers—primarily insurance agents who in turn seek to provide reliable insurance rate estimates to policyholders. In direct competition with Compulife, the defendants likewise generate life insurance quotes through their various websites.


Continue Reading Eleventh Circuit Solidifies Protection of Trade Secrets Threatened By “High-Tech Corporate Espionage” Under Florida’s Trade Secret Law

As autonomous vehicles quickly move farther towards the mainstream, the underlying technology has become increasingly more valuable and has led to an uptick in the theft of autonomous vehicle (“AV”) trade secrets. Indeed, criminal prosecutions of former employees for trade secret theft have been on the rise, especially in the autonomous vehicle segment. Two recent cases underscore the enforcement agencies’ efforts to stem the rise in trade secret theft in the AV segment. Anthony Scott Levandowski was a former executive at both Uber and Google. He departed Google and created a new company named Ottomotto, LLC that was later purchased by Uber. Levandowski pled guilty to theft of trade secrets from Google, admitting that he downloaded approximately 14,000 files from an internal, password-protected Google server to his personal laptop, including a key internal tracking document from Google that detailed the status of its self-driving car program. Levandowki faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and $250,000 fine plus restitution.
Continue Reading Prosecutions of Trade Secret Theft by Former Employees in Autonomous Vehicle Development

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois recently unsealed a December 13, 2017 indictment of Chinese national, Xudong “William” Yao, who was charged with nine counts of trade secret theft. The charges stem from Yao’s theft of more than 3,000 files between September 2014 and February 2015, including trade secret information such as source code and technical specifications, from an unnamed suburban Chicago locomotive manufacturer. The stolen documents generally pertain to the Illinois manufacturer’s train control systems. According to the indictment, Yao began downloading files just two weeks after beginning his employment with the Illinois company and continued to download files while simultaneously negotiating for and accepting a job with a Chinese “provider of automotive telematics service systems.” He began working for the Chinese company several months after being fired from the Illinois company for reasons unrelated to the theft of documents, and Yao’s employer did not discover the theft until sometime later.
Continue Reading Criminal Prosecution of Chinese Trade Secret Misappropriation

Criminal trade secret prosecutions have been on the rise nationwide. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI have been partnering with businesses to combat trade secret theft and to vindicate the rights of corporate victims of such crimes. Emerging industries are a natural arena for trade secret theft – as new technologies start to

On April 18, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York unsealed an indictment accusing Zheng Xiaoqing, a former senior engineer for steam turbine design at GE, and Zhang Zhaoxi, a Chinese national, of conspiring to steal GE’s design data and models, engineering drawings, material specifications, configuration files, and other proprietary trade

Autonomous vehicle technology, while still young, is already a major catalyst of trade secrets-related litigation. In 2018, Uber settled a lawsuit alleging theft of self-driving technology trade secrets from Waymo (Google’s self-driving car spinoff) for $245 million. With the future of the automotive market (and trillions of dollars) at stake, self-driving technology trade secrets are

Despite continued trade talks with China, the federal government continues to aggressively pursue efforts to prevent and hold Chinese companies accountable for trade secret theft and economic espionage. As described below, in the last month alone, the U.S. Government has taken three very decisive actions in combating the threat.

  1. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee announced the