Peter Kisang Kim, a former Broadcom Inc. engineer, was sentenced Tuesday to eight months in prison for stealing trade secrets related to Broadcom’s trade secrets. The sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose.
Kim, 51, of Ben Lomond, pleaded guilty to the offenses on May 10.
Broadcom is headquartered in San Jose, and its products include network chips used in equipment sold worldwide, including for enterprise networks and data centers.
As of July 2020, Kim had been employed by Broadcom for more than 20 years and served as the company’s chief design engineer, according to prosecutors. While at the company, he worked on various Broadcom products, including the Trident family of chips often used in data centers.
Kim resigned from Broadcom in July 2020, and just days before leaving Broadcom, he admitted to prosecutors that he copied more than 500 Broadcom files from its document storage system. In pleading guilty to theft of trade secrets, Kim admitted to possessing Broadcom’s trade secrets related to the Trident chip family, including those contained in test plans, design verification environment files and design specifications.
He admitted that he knowingly possessed Broadcom’s trade secrets, knowing that he had taken them from Broadcom. He also acknowledged that Broadcom took reasonable steps to keep Broadcom’s trade secrets secret, including by storing the trade secrets in non-public document repositories where access permissions were restricted, requiring the execution of appropriate non-disclosure agreements before the trade secrets could be transferred outside of Broadcom, and subject to the confidentiality agreements Kim signed with Broadcom and the annual training he received, among other things.
Less than two weeks after he left Broadcom in 2020, Kim began working as director of IC design verification at a startup company based in the People’s Republic of China, according to U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent Sean Ragan .
Kim acknowledged in his plea agreement that the company was new and was aiming to become a leading chip developer targeting China’s domestic market for network chips at the time.
During Kim’s time at his new company, prosecutors said Kim repeatedly accessed and referenced Broadcom’s trade secrets on his personal electronic devices, as well as on a laptop issued to him by his new employer. Kim also reviewed Broadcom’s trade secrets on his company-issued laptop while working on validation, test plan and architecture documents for his new employer.
In his plea agreement, Kim admitted that by taking Broadcom’s trade secrets for reference purposes, he knew that having them would improve his performance as an employee for his new employer and thereby benefit the company economically.
Kim also acknowledged that he knew his actions could harm Broadcom, including because his new employer sought to compete with Broadcom by developing competing products overseas.
Last November, a federal grand jury indicted Kim on 18 counts of theft of trade secrets related to Broadcom. According to the plea agreement, Kim pleaded guilty to three counts. Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the remaining charges were dropped upon sentencing.
In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Freeman ordered Kim to serve three years of supervised release after incarceration, restitution to Broadcom and a fine.