Trade Secret Theft: Feds Seek Sentencing for Drone Leak

The federal government recommended that a technical writer who tried to blackmail his former employer by threatening to sell the company’s trade secrets be sentenced to 41 months in prison.

A federal jury found Stephen Martin Ward guilty of one count of theft of trade secrets at a trial in April.  The secrets related to a US Navy project to build drone aircraft.

Ward was indicted for taking a confidential maintenance manual with him after he was fired from a Boeing Co. subcontractor.  The manual, which cost more than $100,000 to develop, included information that was found by the jury to be secret, including information about the drones’ fuel systems, muffler, and turret.

Ward worked for subcontractor Corsair Engineering Inc. as a technical writer from August to October of 2011.  After he was fired for being disruptive to fellow employees, he told a Corsair executive that he had a lot of confidential company information and that he wanted a “healthy settlement to go away and not make a fuss,” according to federal prosecutors.

Ward also allegedly told a former supervisor that he would leak the information unless a settlement was reached.

Ward then negotiated a $400,000 settlement with Corsair.  He was arrested when he went to collect a $10,000 down payment in exchange for a disc with the stolen data.

Ward reportedly lied when he told federal agents in October that he did not have any drone schematics.  Four days later, he attempted to blackmail Corsair.

As we have reported, criminal prosecution of trade secret theft is an alternative or supplement to civil enforcement of trade secret rights.

Recent criminal cases we have discussed involving theft of trade secrets and other forms of intellectual property include:

  • A South Korean Chemical firm ordered to pay a $2 million fine
  • The leader of a Chinese trademark counterfeiting ring sentenced to ten years in prison
  • The arrest of a former Goldman Sachs programmer for theft of the company’s source code
  • Criminal sanctions for patent infringement in the UK
  • The arrest of a former engineer for alleged violation of the Economic Espionage Act

If you have questions about seeking a criminal investigation of trade secret theft, contact our office for a free initial consultation.

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Leech Tishman’s Intellectual Property attorneys are dedicated to the protection and monetization of your ideas and innovations. Many of our registered patent attorneys have advanced degrees enabling him or her to truly understand the complex technical details of your idea.  Several bring engineering expertise, others molecular biology, manufacturing and business to your trademark, copyright, patent prosecution and litigation and trade secret issues, both domestic and international.
Our clients range from individual inventors, authors and owners of creative works to entrepreneurial enterprises, government entities, mid-sized corporations and Global 500 companies with operations throughout North and Central America, Europe, South Asia, the Far East and Australia.
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Photo Attribution:  “MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft” by U.S. Air Force photo/Lt Col Leslie Pratt is in the Public Domain.



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