A California design engineer could land in federal prison for the rest of his life after he allegedly stole trade secrets from a major global electronics manufacturer. Peter Kisang Kim, age 50, was indicted this month on 18 counts of trade secret theft after federal prosecutors detailed his departure from Broadcom for an undisclosed Chinese startup after more than 20 years. According to the indictment, in the days before leaving his position as a principal design engineer at Broadcom in July of 2020, Kim stole information from restricted company documents related to a family of chips used primarily in data centers. The information in question included test plans, design specifications and design verification environment files.
Before officially starting as a director at the new company nine months later, prosecutors alleged that he repeatedly used those trade secrets on a laptop issued by his new employer, as well as on other electronic devices. The unnamed startup was referred to only as “Company-1” in the indictment, but prosecutors said it focuses on chip design and the networking chips market.
Kim pleaded not guilty during an initial appearance in San Jose U.S. District Court on Tuesday. He was released on a $500,000 bond and ordered to surrender his passport and other travel documents. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison for each count, along with fines of $250,000 per count and potential supervised release, forfeitures or restitution.
The case appears to be just the latest in ongoing efforts by the Justice Department and federal authorities to crack down on alleged economic espionage by China.