A federal jury has found two former engineers of Wyko Tire Technology Inc., guilty of stealing trade secrets from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Clark Alan Roberts, 47, and Sean Edward Howley, 39, were convicted for taking seven unauthorized photographs of a special Goodyear tire-making equipment with a cellphone camera to help Wyko complete a contract.
Unable to create an effective design on their own, these engineers stole trade secrets from a competitor in order to fulfill a contract, Assistant Attorney General (Criminal Division) Lanny A. Breuer said in a statement.
We will not allow the hard work and resources businesses put into product development to be compromised by individuals who unlawfully obtain protected secrets, Breuer said.
Roberts and Howley both were found guilty on 10 felony counts of stealing trade secrets, unlawful photographing of trade secrets, and committing wire fraud.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, 2011. They 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.
According to the evidence produced in court, Wyko had secured a $1.2 million contract in early 2007 with the Haohua South China Guilin Rubber Company Limited (HHSC), a tire manufacturing company located in Guilin, 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 completing their design of the equipment in time.
On May 30 and 31, 2007, the Wyko engineers - Robert and Howley - traveled to a Goodyear tire plant to service equipment supplied by their company to Goodyear. While they were there, they secretly took seven photos of a Goodyear swab down device without the knowledge or permission of Goodyear. Knowing very well that Goodyear protected the swab down device as a trade secret, they secretly emailed the photographs to employees at a Wyko subsidiary located in Dudley, England. The photographs were then used by Wyko to make a similar piece of tire building equipment for HHSC.