Two engineers charged with stealing Goodyear Tire trade secrets
March 9, 2009
The Associated Press reports that two engineers for a Tennessee company were arrested and charged with conspiring to steal trade secrets from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for use in designing manufacturing equipment for a Chinese tire company. Clark Alan Roberts, 46, and Sean Edward Howley, 38, pleaded not guilty at an arraignment before a federal magistrate in Knoxville after being named in a 12-count indictment. They face up to 150 years in prison and $2.75 million in fines if convicted of the charges that include trade secret theft, wire fraud and conspiracy. They were released on bond and will stand trial in Knoxville in May. The two engineers work for Wyko Tire Technology Inc. in Greenback near Knoxville. The company, part of Netherlands-based Eriks Group, has branch operations in China and Dudley, England. Wyko designs and builds tire-making equipment for tire companies, including Goodyear. The indictment says they conspired to visit a Goodyear plant in Topeka, Kansas under a ruse to evaluate Wyko equipment for possible repairs of Goodyear equipment. The engineers were interested in Goodyear''s proprietary "roll over-ply down device" used to wrap rubber around a cable, which creates an inner bead of the tire, and then applies the bead to the wheel hub, the indictment said. It was one of the machines for making very large "off the road" tires for earth-moving equipment that Wyko had contracted to provide Haohau South China Guilin Rubber Co. Ltd. under a $1.2 million order. Wyko had never built one of the machines before, the indictment said. Once in Kansas the indictment says they lied to their Goodyear escorts to get into the plant, they carried a cell phone camera into a restricted area and Howley took seven photos of the roll over-ply down device while Roberts "stood at a distance to look for Goodyear employees." The next day, Roberts allegedly e-mailed the photos to two unnamed Wyko employees in Dudley, England, which is Wyko''s headquarters.