Monday, March 09, 2009, 3/09/2009 10:05:00 AM

Trade Secrets and Tires – Arrest in Topeka in Economic Espionage Case

From the Kansas City Star, another warning shot concerning economic espionage.

The paper reports that two engineers from Wyko Tire Technology Inc. of Greenback, Tennessee, Clark Alan Roberts, 46, and Sean Edward Howley, 38, were arrested on March 6 and charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for use in designing manufacturing equipment . The two pled not guilty.

Wyko Tire is part of Netherlands-based Eriks Group. It designs and builds tire-making equipment for tire companies, including Goodyear.

According to the indictment, Roberts and Howley conspired to visit a Goodyear plant in Topeka, Kansas in May 2007 under a ruse to evaluate Wyko equipment for possible repairs "when, in fact, as they then well knew, they intended to take unauthorized photographs" of Goodyear equipment.

The story says that the engineers were interested in Goodyear's proprietary "roll over-ply down device" used to wrap rubber around a cable, which creates an inner bead of the tire, and then applies the bead to the wheel hub. It was one of the machines for making very large "off the road" tires for earth-moving equipment that Wyko had contracted to provide Haohau South China Guilin Rubber Co. Ltd. under a $1.2 million order. Wyko had never built one of the machines before, the indictment said.

So Howell and Roberts traveled to Kansas. The indictment says they lied to their Goodyear escorts to get into the plant, they carried a cell phone camera into a restricted area and Howley took seven photos of the roll over-ply down device while Roberts "stood at a distance to look for Goodyear employees."

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