The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 19, 2013

Technology makes trade secrets a tempting target for theft

Becton, Dickinson and Co.’s announcement that it was about to roll out a new, easy-to-use, disposable pen injector called Vystra hardly caused a stir last October.

Although an executive for the Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based medical technology maker said the injector, unveiled at a Las Vegas convention, would introduce “a new level of flexibility for drug manufacturers,” the announcement made few ripples outside the industry.

Now, that’s changed, though not for reasons BD wanted. The new device has become the center of a criminal case in which an engineer, Ketankumar Maniar, 36, who helped create Vystra, is accused of stealing thousands of computer files relating to the pen injector shortly before he quit his job, saying he planned to move back to his native India.

According to the FBI, which arrested Maniar on June 5, the files gave him a “veritable tool kit for mass-producing the disposable pen.” And the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey charged him with “theft of trade secrets for his own economic benefit,” which could result in up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is among several involving allegations of theft of trade secrets, a crime that the Justice Department has made a priority. And it also shines a light on the sophisticated security technology companies are employing to stop it.

In March, a federal judge sentenced a native of China, Sixing Liu, to 70 months in prison for exporting sensitive U.S. military technology to China and stealing trade secrets. Prosecutors said Liu downloaded thousands of files from his employer, L-3 Communications’ space and navigation division in Budd Lake, N.J.

Ten months earlier, Yuan Li, a former research chemist who made drug compounds for Sanofi-Aventis, was given 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets by downloading files on the compounds to her home computer and selling them through a Chinese company of which she was a co-owner.

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