A former employee of chip designer Broadcom was sentenced to eight months in prison this week by a federal district court judge after pleading guilty to charges for theft of trade secrets in May, according to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
Peter Kisang Kim, who worked for Broadcom as a principal design engineer for more than 20 years, quit his job in July 2020 and, after less than two weeks, took a job at a start-up based in the People’s Republic of China.
In pleading guilty, Kim admitted to accessing trade secret information from Broadcom related to the testing and design of the company’s Trident family of chipsets, which are designed for use in network switches and cloud-based networking equipment.
In his plea agreement, Kim acknowledged accessing Broadcom’s proprietary information stored on his smartphone and laptop in the course of his employment at the Chinese company, which he had copied to his personal devices shortly before leaving Broadcom.
He also admitted to accessing the information during the course of his employment at the PRC startup, which, Kim said in his plea agreement, was seeking to compete with Broadcom for the Chinese domestic market and hoped to become a leading chip designer in that country.
Kim was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in November 2021 and charged with 18 counts of trade secret theft, 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a).
Each count could have carried a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, $250,000 in fines, and three years of supervised release. He was released on $500,000 bail after his initial appearance. Kim eventually pleaded guilty to three out of the 18 counts.
Criminal actions in trade secrets cases has become commonplace in recent years. In August, a former Apple engineer, Xiaolang Zhang, also pled guilty to theft of trade secrets involving Apple’s self-driving car program, and is set to be sentenced in November.
Zhang was arrested in 2018 at San Jose International Airport, before he could board a flight to Beijing. Jizhong Chen was also arrested for trade secret theft in connection with that program, and has thus far pled not guilty.