Takeaway: Even the largest companies are susceptible to trade secret theft, so take the careful and necessary steps to protect your intellectual property.
Former Coca-Cola engineer Xiaorong You was convicted of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, possession of stolen trade secrets, economic espionage and wire fraud for her part in a plan to launch a BPA-free coating company in China.
While working at Coca-Cola and at Eastman Chemical Co., You gained access to the valuable trade secrets, which cost nearly $120 million to develop and belonged to major chemical and coating companies, including Eastman, Dow Chemical Co., Sherwin-Williams Co., BASF, Akzo Nobel NV and PPG Industries.
BPA, formerly used to coat the inside of soda cans, has recently been identified as potentially harmful to humans. In response to this discovery, soda companies have been researching BPA-free alternatives.
After obtaining the can-coating trade secrets, You sent them to Liu Xiangchen, a Chinese businessperson, with the intent to create a competitive company in China and with the support of millions of dollars in Chinese government grants for the new company.
After a 12-day trial, You was convicted and is set to be sentenced on November 1st.