Monday, January 07, 2008, 1/07/2008 08:27:00 AM

Betrayal: A Silicon Valley Way of Life (subscription req'd)

From Salon.com, an interesting article which provides a different take on at least one case allegedly involving Chinese economic espionage. The case concerns the trade secrets claim of Applied Materials, a Santa Clara manufacturer of chip-making machinery, against a Shanghai start-up, Advanced Micro-Fabrication Equipment (AMEC).

Applied Materials claims that its former chief technology officer, Gerald Yin, and the general manager of one of its product groups, Aihua Chen, schemed to leave Applied Materials to go set up AMEC using information obtained while working at Applied Materials.

The author's interesting premise is that rather than yet another instance of Chinese companies stealing our superior know-how, the AMEC dispute is simply a continuing of the traditional Silicon Valley practice of engineers leaving old companies to found their own. It started, according to the author, with the so-called "traitorous eight" who left their boss, William Shockley, to found Fairchild Semiconductor.

The entire semiconductor industry, including Mr. Yin who worked at both Applied Materials and Intel, can trace its lineage back to the traitorous eight.

As the author put it, "this isn't necessarily a story about cheating. It's a story about technological change spreads."

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