In August, a man claiming to be an attorney with the Chinese firm Boss & Young Patent and Trademark Law Office was charged in the U.S. with attempting to steal trade secrets after he was caught sitting uninvited at a Massachusetts-based medical technology company with two laptop computers and various data storage devices.
According to the FBI, 44-year-old Liu Dong was discovered by Samuel Straface, the CEO of Raynham, Massachusetts-based Medrobotics Corp., sitting in a conference room in a secure section of the company’s office at about 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, with what appeared to be three open laptops. Straface asked Liu who he had an appointment to see, and after Liu named two people who Straface knew were out of the office, Liu named Straface himself, prompting the CEO to call the police. Liu identified himself as a senior partner and a patent attorney with Boss & Young Beijing.
On Boss & Young Beijing’s website, Liu was listed as a senior partner who led the firm’s “intellectual property practice in medical device, bio-tech, clean-tech and other emerging high-tech areas such as new media.” The firm has since removed Liu’s profile from its homepage, but the website remained searchable.
When contacted via phone by The Asian Lawyer, ALM Media’s Asia publication, an employee at Boss & Young Beijing said “our company doesn’t have anybody named Liu Dong.”
Liu, who is not a qualified Chinese lawyer, has appeared at several conferences and forums in China, discussing medical technology innovation and entrepreneurship. In July, Liu gave a talk titled “Doctor Inventors: Where Are Our Billionaires?” at Ningxia Medical University General Hospital.
According to media reports, Medrobotics, which makes a surgical robot device that provides surgeons with access to, and visualization of, hard-to-reach places in the human body, had been approached for years by Chinese companies but had no interest in doing business with them. The company has invested millions of dollars in next-generation robotics technology that is not yet patented.
When Liu was arrested for trespassing, he possessed two laptop computers, an iPad, two portable hard drives, 10 cellphone SIM cards, two digital camcorders, at least two flash drives and other data equipment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
Liu’s LinkedIn profile states that he holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from McGill University in Montreal. Before joining Boss & Young in 2008, he held in-house patent and technology roles at The Dow Chemical Co. and at Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk A/S.
The firm, now known as Boss & Young Patent and Trademark Law Office and also as Boss & Young Beijing, has a complicated history. According to registration records, it shares the same office address as the Beijing branch office of Shanghai-based Boss & Young Attorneys-at-Law. But Xu Guojian, managing partner of the Shanghai-based firm, said the two are separate entities and Liu had no ties to Boss & Young whatsoever.
Xu founded Boss & Young in 1994 in Shanghai and led the firm’s 2014 merger with the Shanghai-based JoinWay Law Firm. Following that union, legacy Boss & Young was actually absorbed into legacy JoinWay, although the combined firm was branded as Boss & Young in English, according to Xu. The merged firm then inherited the Beijing branch of legacy JoinWay, while the Beijing branch of legacy Boss & Young, which was acquired in 2003, more or less broke off.
Both firms still shared the brand Boss & Young, Xu said, partly because of the brand’s goodwill and partly due to unfinished administrative procedures following the merger. “We are still in transition of sorts from the merger,” Xu said.
Boss & Young Beijing specializes in intellectual property. The firm often represents companies on patent and trademark filings and related opposition proceedings. Last year, it helped Chinese drugmaker Hansoh Pharma successfully persuade the Patent Reexamination Board to invalidate a patent owned by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis International A.G.
Liu is now being held without bail pending trial. In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice said that attempted theft of trade secrets can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years, plus a $250,000 fine. Liu is also charged with attempting to access a computer without authorization, which could also result in a five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.
The case against Liu is being led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Garland for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.