Former GM engineer and husband on trial for stealing trade secrets

Article by Anita Panait, on November 7, 2012

Shanshan Du, a former General Motors Co. engineer and her husband, Yu Qin, are facing trial in a federal court in Detroit for allegedly stealing trade secrets related to hybrid car technology from the US carmaker to use in developing similar vehicles in China. According to a US prosecutor at the beginning of the trial, Du copied the GM’s private information on the motor control of hybrids and provided documents to Qin.

Her husband used the trade secrets to seek business ventures or employment with the carmaker’s rivals in China, including Chery Automobile Co., prosecutor Michael Martin said. GM contends that the trade secrets in concern are valued at more than $40 million. In his opening statements, Martin said the case is about theft and deceit, adding that the defendants are "partners in life, partners in business and partners in crime."

Frank Eaman, attorney for Qin, argued that there is no evidence that his client used, or planned on using, the GM documents that his wife gave him. Eaman said that the hybrid technology described in the documents would have been useless to anyone outside of GM. According to Qin’s attorney, the technology cannot be taken from GM and use it on another vehicle since it is unique to the US carmaker.

On the other hand, Robert Morgan, Du's attorney, says the case isn't about theft, but whether 18 items out of more than 16,000 were trade secrets. The defense argued that the documents that Du copied, which included papers describing hybrid electric drive systems, weren't encrypted as per GM's policy on trade secrets. Eaman said that a company must take "reasonable means" to protect information to deem it secret, quipping that there are no trade secrets in the case.

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Topics: gm

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