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Ex-Intel man pleads guilty to pinching chip secrets

Didn't hand them over to Sun

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Erstwhile Intel Itanium engineer Say Lye Ow last week pleaded guilty to nicking the chip giant's trade secrets.

The hearing, in the San Jose District Court, was something of a formality, Ow having been indicted by a US Grand Jury in March last year of violating the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.

Essentially, that Act made the theft of trade secrets a federal felony. Ow was charged with misappropriating confidential Intel information after he quit the company in 1998. Ow immediately went to work for Sun, but the FBI investigation revealed no evidence that he has passed on what he learned to his new employer.

Just as well, that, since it emerged that the data Ow had taken away with him centred on Intel's plans for future processors, something that a competitor like Sun would no doubt have been very keen to get its hands on.

The fact that it didn't - as much a product of the rapid recovery of the information as anything else - is likely to save Ow from a very harsh fate indeed. The Economic Espionage Act states that sentencing must take into account the financial loss incurred by a company resulting from the theft of its secrets.

Even so, Ow could now face fines of up to $1.5 million and 30 years in the slammer for his actions. His fate will be decided in a further hearing, scheduled to take place in December. ®

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