Former Intel engineer indicted for stealing trade secrets

Pani charged with downloading Intel secrets while working for both Intel and rival AMD

A former Intel Corp. design engineer has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston for allegedly stealing trade secrets from the chip maker while secretly working for rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

The indictment was handed down on Wednesday against Biswamohan Pani, according to R. Bradford Bailey, Pani's attorney and a defense lawyer at Denner Pellegrino LLP in Boston. "It was not a surprise," Bailey told Computerworld. He added that Pani, who had been charged with the theft in late August, will enter a not guilty plea at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Boston in about two weeks.

According to an affidavit filed with the courts, Pani began working at Intel's Hudson, Mass., research and development facility in 2003. Among other projects, Pani worked on the design of the Intel Itanium processor.

Pani resigned from Intel in late May, saying he was going to work at a hedge fund and would take accrued vacation time until his last official day on June 11, according to the affidavit. However, it was noted in the court document that Pani began working for AMD on June 2, when he was still employed by Intel.

Between June 8 and June 10, while working for both chip makers, Pani allegedly remotely accessed and downloaded 13 top secret documents from an encrypted system at Intel. Some of the downloaded documents allegedly include design details on Intel's newest chips.

The FBI allegedly found eight Intel documents totaling more than 100 pages and 19 computer-aided design drawings -- all classified as confidential, secret or top secret -- during a search of his house on July 1, according to the affidavit.

Investigators found no reason to believe that AMD was involved in the alleged theft, it added. "At this point, there has been no evidence that AMD knew that Pani had downloaded Intel's files, had encouraged Pani to do so or that it received those files at all," wrote FBI Special Agent Timothy Russell in the affidavit. "It appears at this point that Pani obtained Intel's trade secrets to benefit himself in his work at AMD without AMD's knowledge."

Michael Silverman, a spokesman for AMD, said in an e-mail to Computerworld last month that the company is cooperating fully in the investigation. AMD no longer employs Pani.

The affidavit noted that during an interview with the FBI, Pani admitted to downloading the files but said he wanted the information to help his wife, an Intel employee who was transferring from California to the Hudson facility. Russell added in the affidavit that the work assigned to Pani's wife had no connection with the information in the files.

Intel discovered the problem when another employee heard a rumor that Pani was working at AMD while still working at Intel. That employee pulled up a report showing Pani's access and download history on the encrypted system.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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