By Howard Mintz
Spies in the heart of Silicon Valley. Or two gifted engineers looking to
jump start a new company that could do business in booming China with
their own superfast computer chip.
Those were the two competing stories presented Wednesday to a federal
jury in San Jose, where valley engineers Lan Lee and Yuefei Ge find
themselves facing one of the nation's first trials on charges of
economic espionage to aid a foreign government.
A federal grand jury has indicted Lee, 44, and Ge, 36, on charges of
violating provisions of the 1996 espionage act, as well as stealing
trade secrets from their former employers, Mountain View-based NetLogic
Microsystems, and chip manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor. At the heart
of the indictment is the allegation that Lee and Ge stole NetLogic chip
technology six years ago to establish a rival company backed by the
Calling Lee and Ge "traitors" to NetLogic, Assistant U.S. Attorney
Matthew Parrella told the jury that the case was about stealing
cutting-edge chip designs to set up a company that was backed by a
Chinese venture capital program and China's military.
"There is no doubt about it," the prosecutor said. "They planned to
build, market and sell in China the chip that is a direct competitor."
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