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Electronic Materials

Taiwan arrests six for IP theft

Former and current BASF staffers are accused of selling chemical intellectual property to China

by Jean-François Tremblay
January 9, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 2


A photo of a BASF high-purity electronic chemicals lab.
Credit: BASF
BASF researchers test the firm's Planapur semiconductor polishing slurry.

Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) has arrested one current BASF staffer and five former employees for accepting bribes from a Chinese company in exchange for industrial secrets. The case comes at a time when the US is engaged in a trade war with China, partly because of alleged theft of intellectual property.

CIB is accusing a director of BASF’s factory in Kuanyin, Taiwan, and five former BASF employees of accepting nearly $6 million from China’s Jiangyin Jianghua Microelectronic Materials, a producer of high-purity chemicals used to make computer chips. The director collected technology blueprints and formulas and passed them on to Jianghua, CIB says. In addition, CIB accuses him of recruiting the former employees to help Jianghua build a factory in China that uses the stolen technology.

In a statement, BASF confirms the arrest of one of its Taiwan staffers and that it is cooperating with the CIB investigation. The German firm is currently planning huge petrochemical investments in China.

Opened in 2015, BASF’s Kuanyin factory produces ultra-pure aqueous ammonia and sulfuric acid. It also features an electronic materials R&D center. Taiwan is home to some of the world’s largest and most advanced semiconductor factories.

China has ambitious goals for its indigenous semiconductor industry but lacks many of the technologies required to produce high-end microchips with advanced circuitry. China’s Made in China 2025 industrial development policy is one of the prime reasons behind the trade war that the US initiated with China last year. The US claims the policy forces foreign companies to reveal industrial secrets and that it encourages Chinese firms to develop new technologies by sometimes illegal means.

Besides Jianghua, other Chinese firms may have engaged in spying to improve their electronics know-how. In November, the US Department of Justice accused China’s Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit and Taiwan’s United Microelectronics of stealing technology from the US chip maker Micron. Jinhua and United had an agreement for developing memory chips.


This story was updated on Jan. 10, 2019, to correctly state who Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau accused of accepting money from Jiangyin Jianghua Microelectronic Materials.


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