Federal judge fines Chinese wind turbine maker $1.5 million

MADISON, Wis. — A federal judge in Wisconsin fined a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer Friday for stealing trade secrets from a Massachusetts-based technology company, wrapping up an investigation that spanned three countries.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson fined Sinovel Wind Group $1.5 million and placed the company on probation for a year. Prosecutors charged the company with conspiracy, theft of trade secrets and wire fraud in 2013. A jury in Madison convicted Sinovel in January following an 11-day trial. The $1.5 million fine is the maximum amount Peterson could have levied.

"This case is about protecting American ideas and ingenuity," said Scott C. Blader, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin. "The devastation Sinovel's illegal actions caused to AMSC and its employees will not be tolerated."

Sinovel attorney Alex Akerman didn't immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

According to court documents, Sinovel had contracted with AMSC, an energy technology company in Ayer, Massachusetts, to purchase software regulating the flow of electricity from turbines to the electrical grid for more than $800 million. Sinoval wanted to use the software to retrofit existing turbines in China to comply with grid requirements and make new turbines more efficient.

Sinovel stopped paying for the software in March 2011. AMSC field workers in China discovered unauthorized versions of the software on Sinovel turbines three months later.

The source code was stored on a computer in AMSC's office in Middleton, Wisconsin. Investigators uncovered email and Skype conversations that show that Austria-based AMSC employee Dejan Karabasevic downloaded the source code from the Middleton office in March 2011, provided the code to Sinovel and traveled to China to adapt the software for use in Sinovel turbines.

Sinovel had offered Karabasevic a six-year contract worth $1.7 million days before he downloaded the code, according to court documents.

As a result of the theft, AMSC's revenues fell, its market value dropped from about $1.6 billion to about $200 million and the company was forced to eliminate nearly 700 jobs, more than half of its global workforce, prosecutors said in a news release.

Peterson found AMSC's losses from the theft exceeded $550 million. Sinovel has agreed to pay AMSC $57.5 million in restitution.

President Donald Trump's administration and China's leadership imposed tens of billions of dollars in tariffs on each other's goods Friday , bringing the world's two biggest economies to the brink of a trade war. In announcing the U.S. tariffs, Trump said he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to crack down on what he contends are China's unfair trade practices and its efforts to undermine U.S. technology and intellectual property.

The Sinovel case began more than three years before Trump took office in January 2017.

___

Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at www.twitter.com/trichmond1

Related News

Ford to invest $75M in autonomous vehicle sensor company

Aug 16, 2016

Ford and Chinese search engine company Baidu will invest $75 million each in Velodyne, a company that makes laser sensors that help guide self-driving cars

Navajo Nation sues feds over massive 2015 mine waste spill

Aug 16, 2016

One of the nation's largest American Indian tribes is suing the federal government over a massive mine waste spill that tainted rivers in three Western states

Ford says it will have a fully autonomous car by 2021

Aug 17, 2016

Ford Motor Co. intends to have a fully driverless vehicle _ no steering wheel, no pedals _ on the road within five years

Broaden News

About Us

In-Depth Science delivers comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything science and technology, seven days a week in a reader-friendly format.

Contact us: sales@indepthscience.com