About seven months ago, a Chicago judge found that a former Motorola Solutions Inc. employee was guilty of stealing trade secrets from the company and trying to flee to China. Yesterday, the judge sentenced that rogue employee to four years in prison.

Hanjuan Jin, a 41-year-old Chicago-area resident who was born in China, worked for Motorola as a software engineer from 1998 to 2007. In February 2007, federal authorities stopped her during a routine screening at O’Hare International Airport. They discovered that Jin had $30,000 in her luggage, more than 1,000 confidential technical documents from Motorola and a one-way ticket to Beijing. Later, investigators found that Jin had been consulting for a Chinese telecommunications company since 2004 and intended to return to China to work for the company, which develops products for the Chinese military.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo found Jin guilty of trade-secret theft earlier this year. Although she faced a maximum of 30 years in prison, yesterday Judge Castillo only imposed a four-year sentence for her crimes, partly because she has had various health problems, including cancer. Nonetheless, the Chicago Tribune reports that “Jin’s punishment is the harshest levied for the crime of trade-secret theft, signaling that law-enforcement authorities and judges are taking criminal cases involving sensitive U.S. technology more seriously.”

And though Motorola didn’t suffer actual financial losses from Jin’s theft, the company could have lost between $10 million and $15 million if she had gotten away with it.

Judge Castillo fined Jin $20,000 and ordered her to remain on home confinement until she reports to prison on Oct. 25.

Read Bloomberg Businessweek and the Wall Street Journal for more about the case and sentencing.


For previous InsideCounsel coverage of the Motorola trade secrets case, read:

Motorola worker found guilty of stealing trade secrets

Tech firm sues Nixon Peabody, Motorola as espionage trial begins

Former Motorola software engineer goes on trial for economic espionage


And for more InsideCounsel stories about trade secrets, read:

Protecting the crown jewels: How to deal with international trade secrets theft

IP: ITC foreign-based misappropriation of trade secrets actions

Appeals court frees programmer convicted of stealing employer’s computer code

Decision deepens circuit split on scope of CFAA

Protecting corporate intellectual property from the inside

The top cybercrime risks for businesses