To Plea or Not to Plea: IP Theft Cases Advance
Recently, two cases involving IP theft advanced against two scientists.
Four months after pleading guilty to stealing trade secrets from her former employer, Sanofi, and selling Sanofi compounds through another company in which she held an interest, Yuan Li was sentenced in May to 18 months in prison. The former Sanofi chemist must also pay $131,000 in restitution and contend with two years of supervision after she is released.
The French-based pharmaceutical maker hired Li six years ago as a medicinal chemist in its Bridgewater, NJ, facility. During that time, she worked on new potential–and proprietary–drug compounds.
Then suddenly last year, a little-known company called Abby Pharmatech began advertising chemical compounds on its web site. With the help of the CAS database SciFinder®, Sanofi soon discovered that several of its own propriety chemical structures were listed among them.
The drugmaker contacted the feds, who discovered that Li owned a 50 percent stake in Abby. Li later admitted that between October 2008 and June 2011, she accessed a Sanofi database and downloaded proprietary data about numerous Sanofi compounds, including their chemical structure. She later transferred the data to her personal home computer. She also admitted to offering Sanofi proprietary compounds for sale on her Abby Pharmatech company website.
Prabhu Mohapatra entered the plea, also in May, in a US District Court to one count of unlawful access to a protected computer, in exchange for prosecutors dropping 25 other charges against him. Mohapatra had worked for Utah-based fine chemicals maker Frontier Scientific Inc. from 2009 to 2011.
He admitted to accessing a company chemical resource notebook and sending the recipes for two Frontier Scientific products, including meso tetraphenylphorphine disulfonic acid dihydrochloride, to his brother-in-law without obtaining permission. Investigators say that relative was setting up a competing company in India to undercut Frontier Scientific on pricing for its fine chemicals.
Mohapatra faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Aug 28.
– Mike Gelbin
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