Florida man accused of attempting to steal seed trade secrets

There are of course many things that go into a business being successful. Accordingly, in many cases businesses go out of their way to keep relevant information private. This information is referred to as trade secrets. Trade secrets may take many forms including:

  • Product information
  • Business systems
  • Business ideas

To keep this type of information secret, it is not uncommon for employers to require their workers to sign noncompete agreements. If the agreement is violated, the business could take legal action against the worker. While this may help protect information vital to the operation of the company where workers are concerned, it is not the only way in which trade secret infringement could occur. The arrest of a Florida man last month in Iowa, in connection with trade secrets from Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer, illustrates this.

The man, who works for a Chinese company, was allegedly engaged in corporate agriculture espionage. According to Iowa’s governor, the man, along with several other co-conspirators were involved in a plan to steal seed corn trade secrets and take them back to China. The accused attended a state dinner held by the state’s governor for the now president of China, as well as tour at both of the American companies’ facilities. Had the alleged plan succeeded and businesses in China been able to develop and sell the seeds, it is easy to see how Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer could lose money.

The man was charged with conspiracy to steal trade secrets and if convicted could face a fine of $5 million as well as 10 years in prison. Whether he will face any additional legal action on the part of the seed companies is unclear. In any event, as Iowa’s governor points out the incident will likely result in better security at functions state officials attend.

Source: Sioux City Journal, "Branstad: Trade secret case makes case for more security," Rod Boshart, Dec. 16, 2013