The Chinese wind power company Sinovel will be keeping its legal team busy. In addition to the intellectual property charges against the company in Chinese courts, which Spectrumcovered last year, the company now faces criminal charges of corporate espionage brought by the U.S. Justice Department.
In the new charges, prosecutors allege that Sinovel stole trade secrets from the Massachusetts-based company AMSC (formerly American Superconductor Corp.), which sells software and systems to control wind turbines. According to the indictment, AMSC's alleged losses exceed $800 million.
The prosecution is part of efforts undertaken by the Justice Department's IP Task Force, which was recently created to "safeguard the nation’s economic security against those who seek to profit illegally from American creativity, innovation and hard work."
The various cases against Sinovel have attracted widespread attention, as the Wall Street Journal notes:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, while in his capacity as the senior senator from Massachusetts last year, called the AMSC-Sinovel dispute "a mugging in broad daylight and a real test of China's commitment to the rule of law."
Sinovel used to be AMSC's biggest customer, accounting for 70 percent of the company's revenues. But in March 2011 Sinovel rejected a shipment of wind turbine components, and severed business relations. A former AMSC employee has already pled guilty in an Austrian court to stealing trade secrets, but Sinovel has denied any wrongdoing.
Image: Stephan van Es
Eliza Strickland is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum, where she covers AI, biomedical engineering, and other topics. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.