Following the decision by the Taiwan Prosecutor to pursue criminal proceedings against a subsidiary of Asustek Computer, Inc. (TSE: 2357) and four of that subsidiary’s employees for the alleged misappropriation of trade secrets from VIA Technologies, Inc. (TSE: 2388), VIA today announced that it has filed a civil suit in the Taipei District Court seeking damages of at least NT$4.137 billion (US$138 million) from Asustek Computer, Inc and its subsidiary Asmedia Technology.
The lawsuit is being filed to recover the losses incurred as a result of the alleged misappropriation of VIA intellectual property related to USB technology. Also named in the suit are Asmedia Chairman Jerry Shen, Asmedia President Lin Chewei, and other Asmedia employees involved in the case.
Taiwan amended its Trade Secret Act earlier this year to enhance its IP protection laws. One key reform included increasing the penalties for intellectual property crimes, so anyone who misappropriates trade secrets in Taiwan with the intent to use them overseas may be imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined up to US$1.7 million, or possibly more if there are substantial illicit gains.
The lawsuit alleges that a former VIA executive, Chewei Lin, left VIA in 2007 and joined Asmedia (controlled by Asus Group), taking dozens of VIA employees with him, and also VIA’s intellectual property related to USB technology, including host controllers and device controllers. Those products are used in many computing and consumer electronics products, including PCs, external Hard Disk Drives, and peripheral devices. Asustek Computer, Inc. is the largest single purchaser of Asmedia USB products.
Prior to that, Asmedia had no expertise in the USB field, according to the lawsuit. Given the complexity and legacy USB 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0 IP required for the development of USB 3.0 chips, the Taiwan Prosecutor concluded in the criminal case filing that “it is extremely difficult to develop and take such chips into mass production in such a short time frame [of one year].”
According to the results of investigation carried out by the Taipei District Prosecutor, the evidence of trade secret theft is strong enough to justify the criminal prosecution of Asmedia and four Asmedia employees, including R&D VP Chang Chi.