Chinese turbine company found guilty of trade theft


Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. Built in 2012 the farm is the largest wind farm in South Africa comprising of 60 turbines.

BEIJING - Sinovel, one of China&39;s leading wind turbine-makers, was found guilty Wednesday of stealing proprietary technology from US firm AMSC, causing it $800 million in losses, the Justice Department said.

A Wisconsin jury convicted Beijing-based Sinovel Wind Group Co Ltd, of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, theft of trade secrets, and wire fraud after an 11-day trial.

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It said that in 2011, Sinovel recruited an Austria-based AMSC employee who stole source code from its computers that formed the basis of its technology for regulating the flow of electricity from wind turbines to electrical grids.

At the time AMSC, formerly known as American Superconductor Inc, was selling its technology to Sinovel. Obtaining that code allowed Sinovel to drop its orders to the US company as it took the technology for its own, causing AMSC an estimated $800 million in losses.

Losing Sinovel orders plunged AMSC into "severe financial hardship," as the company&39;s market value fell by $1 billion and it was forced to cut 700 jobs, more than half of its global workforce.

"Sinovel nearly destroyed an American company by stealing its intellectual property," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan.

"As today&39;s jury verdict demonstrates, this type of conduct, by any corporation -- anywhere -- is a crime, and won&39;t be tolerated."

In a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, where it is listed, Sinovel said on Thursday that it is "well prepared to take active measures to protect our interests and use legal means to strictly defend our legitimate rights and interests".

It promised to "protect the rights and interests of the company&39;s medium and small shareholders" and "release information on the development of this case in a timely manner according to relevant regulations".

Shares in the firm were down more than three percent by the break on Thursday.

The US government has repeatedly warned of Chinese companies, both private and government-related, seeking to steal US trade secrets and technology.

Last week, a Chinese software developer was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing computer source code from IBM to hand over to a Chinese government agency.