A former employee of Dutch company ASML which makes cutting-edge semiconductor circuits has been accused of stealing its technology on behalf of a Chinese corporation backed by Beijing.
Zongchang Yu worked as an engineer at ASML until 2012, after which he founded Dongfang Jingyuan Electron Ltd, a firm based in Beijing. He is now on the wanted list in California, accused of stealing technology from his previous companies.
The Netherlands-based firm is the world’s only producer of extreme UV lithography machines, which cost upwards of $160 million and are the size of a bus. The devices construct minuscule circuits on silicon wafers, resulting in some of the world’s most advanced microchips.
China is barred from purchasing the company’s latest machines, forcing the country to rely on older technology and struggle to remain competitive in the global market.
But ASML accused Dongfang Jingyuan of stealing its trade secrets in an annual report. In 2018, the company filed a lawsuit against Xtal, a now-defunct US-based firm linked to Dongfang and founded by Yu in 2014, resulting in the company’s bankruptcy.
Dongfang and Xtal were discovered to be the same corporation operating under two different names. The architect behind the merger, according to the 2018 California trial, was the former employee of ASML, Yu.
In another report, it was said that the criminal’s goal is to reclaim the technology from ASML and then transfer the IP to China.
Yu was delivering the “secret” to the country, according to ASML’s attorney, in order to help the semiconductor sector thrive.
The engineer was even involved in the two-million robbery of source codes from ASML, according to the transcripts of the proceedings. It was also said that employees from both Dongfang and Xtal in China and the US received the software.
According to ASML’s main attorney Patrick Ryan, it was not an accident, rather, this strategy was designed to steal technologies for the advantage of the Chinese government.
It should be noted that China excels in gaming, aerospace, and military technologies, but it lags behind in advanced chip production. The export of semiconductors has suddenly become much more difficult as a result of US President Joe Biden’s decision to impose harsher rules on SMIC.
Meanwhile, it was also reported that according to Taiwan’s Investigation Bureau, officials raided 10 Chinese companies or their R&D centres which operate on the island suspected of unlawfully poaching chip engineers and other tech talents, the latest crackdown on Chinese enterprises to defend Taiwan’s chip supremacy.
The fact is that China has the ability to catch up to international chipmakers but it will still require certain foreign competitors’ tools to do so.
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