WASHINGTON – A federal jury convicted Clark Alan Roberts, 47, and Sean Edward Howley, 39, both former engineers with Wyko Tire Technology Incorporated, located in Greenback, Tenn., of stealing trade secrets from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William C. Killian for the Eastern District of Tennessee announced today.
After a one-week trial, the jury found Roberts and Howley guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft, one count of trade secret theft, one count of unlawful photographing of trade secrets, three counts of transmittal of trade secrets, one count of possession of trade secrets, two counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
"Unable to create an effective design on their own, these engineers stole trade secrets from a competitor in order to fulfill a contract," said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. "We will not allow the hard work and resources businesses put into product development to be compromised by individuals who unlawfully obtain protected secrets."
"The ruling in this case will send a message that complicated trade secret violations will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Department," said U.S. Attorney Killian.
According to the evidence presented in court, Wyko secured a $1.2 million contract in early 2007 with the Haohua South China Guilin Rubber Company Limited (HHSC), a Chinese tire manufacturing company located in Guilin, Peoples Republic of China, to supply tire building equipment for use in producing radial "off the road" (OTR) tires, which are used on very large earth moving and mining equipment. Wyko was in the business of making tire building equipment for Goodyear and other tire manufacturers. One of the pieces of equipment that Wyko agreed to sell to HHSC was called a swab down device, which is used during the manufacture of a giant OTR tire. However, Wyko had never built a swab down device before and was having difficulty in the spring of 2007 completing their design of the swab down device.
On May 30 and 31, 2007, Roberts and Howley, traveled to a Goodyear tire manufacturing facility located in Topeka, Kan., to service Wyko equipment located in the Goodyear plant with the intention of taking photographs of Goodyear’s swab down device to assist them with completing their design even though they knew Goodyear protected the swab down device as a trade secret. On May 31, 2007, the defendants used a cell phone camera to surreptitiously take seven unauthorized photographs of a Goodyear swab down device, without the knowledge or permission of Goodyear. The defendants then emailed the unauthorized photographs to employees at a Wyko subsidiary located in Dudley, England, who used the trade secret information contained in the photographs to complete a similar piece of tire building equipment for the HHSC contract.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on the 10 felony counts by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Phillips on April 14, 2011. The defendants face a maximum of 10 years in prison for each trade secret count, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count and $2.5 million in fines.
The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorney Thomas S. Dougherty of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney D. Gregory Weddle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Knoxville Division.