Taipei, Oct. 16 (CNA) Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang said Tuesday that the Cabinet has proposed giving heavier penalties for the crime of leaking business secrets in the wake of an alleged leak of a Taiwan-based panel maker's research secrets to Chinese rivals.
Local investigators found that two former AU Optronics Corp. (AUO) senior officials allegedly stole files containing information on the company's panel production technology, including patented foldable panels, before going to China and working for China's TCL Group.
The case was referred to the Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office a day earlier after the two suspects were questioned in late September.
Shih said his ministry supported the investigation "because it is a major step in curbing the theft of business secrets."
However, although the case is being probed as a criminal matter, the Criminal Act has limits, according to the minister. Therefore, the Cabinet has proposed including criminal liability in the trade secrets act, with "aggravated penalties when applied overseas," Shih said. The revision draft was submitted to the Legislature for review as a priority bill, he added.
Currently, Taiwan's trade secrets act only stipulates civil liability.
Investigators in Taipei first looked into the alleged leak of trade secrets nine months ago. They said the suspects were hired by the TCL Group and its unit, China Star Optoelectronics, with a three-year contract worth US$2.5 million and an annual salary of NT$5 million (US$171,100), respectively, after leaving AUO.
The investigators said files containing the trade secrets were downloaded to the suspects' notebook computers when they still worked at AUO, but they were later found to have brought the devices with them to China.
The Investigation Bureau said panel manufacturing technology is listed as "sensitive" by the government and that the Ministry of Economic Affairs prohibits local investment or technical collaboration on the technology in China. Leaks of the key technology could harm Taiwan's advantages in the panel industry, it noted.
The two men were referred to the prosecutors for allegedly committing several crimes, including "leaking business secrets using computer devices" and violation of the Act Governing Relations between People of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area, the bureau said.
(By Chen Wei-ting, Pan Chi-i, Liu Shih-yi and Kendra Lin)