Former chip research professor jailed for not disclosing Chinese patents

This is how Beijing illegally accesses US tech, say Feds

The former director of the University of Arkansas’ High Density Electronics Center, a research facility that specialises in electronic packaging and multichip technology, has been jailed for a year for failing to disclose Chinese patents for his inventions.

Professor Simon Saw-Teong Ang was in 2020 indicted for wire fraud and passport fraud, with the charges arising from what the US Department of Justice described as a failure to disclose “ties to companies and institutions in China” to the University of Arkansas or to the US government agencies for which the High Density Electronics Center conducted research under contract.

At the time of the indictment, then assistant attorney general for national security John C. Demers described Ang’s actions as “a hallmark of the China’s targeting of research and academic collaborations within the United States in order to obtain U.S. technology illegally.” The DoJ statement about the indictment said Ang’s actions had negatively impacted NASA and the US Air Force.

The fraud charges were dropped after the FBI caught Ang in a lie: when asked if any patents in China bore his name, he replied in the negative. Ang agreed to plead guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI.

On Thursday, the case reached its sentencing phase and Judge Timothy L. Brooks of the United States District Court in Fayetteville sent Ang down for a year and a day for making a false statement about those patents – all 24 of them.

As a University employee, Ang’s obligation was to disclose inventions to the University of Arkansas, so it – and not Chinese entities - could enjoy IP rights to the former Professor’s innovations. Ang also failed to disclose what the DoJ described as “numerous talent awards” awarded by China’s government.

China is credibly accused of using many means to illegally obtain technology. On such matters, and on issues regarding cybersecurity, Beijing often tries to level similar allegations against other nations. But those counter-actions can sometimes fall flat: this week China accused US national security agencies of mass data harvesting by citing research from a “cybersecurity information platform” named “Anzer” – but researchers have struggled to find any trace of Anzer, or the report it supposedly created. ®

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