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Engineer Steals Millions of Files from GE Healthcare

Large medical device companies may have more reason to look at how they secure their proprietary information after a recent case in which a computer engineer admitted to stealing roughly 2.4 million files of corporate secrets from a Wisconsin subsidiary of GE Healthcare and sent them to China, states GE and the FBI.

A federal judge in Eastern Wisconsin on September 3 issued a permanent injunction against Jun Xie, a former pulse sequence diagram engineer at GE Healthcare in Waukesha, barring Xie from obtaining, disclosing, transmitting or copying any GE trade secrets or intellectual property for two years. The injunction further orders Xie not to delete or destroy evidence in the case and to return to GE all trade secrets and intellectual property.

Xie, a Chinese citizen who worked for GE Medical Systems in Waukesha since 2008, agreed to the permanent injunction, according to a stipulation filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

In July, GE sued Xie in a civil action in federal court, alleging violations of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Wisconsin Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The company sought injunctive relief under the Wisconsin computer crimes statute and relief for breach of contract and conversion.

According to court documents, Xie admitted stealing and transferring "a substantial number of files from GE's internal password-protected electronic resources." Among the information taken were "engineering designs and architecture, product testing data, and source code, and business information such as product strategy documents, cost data, and market analyses," the original complaint says.

Xie transmitted some of this information to his wife and brother in China and had planned to use it to get a job with a Chinese company, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. His wife returned to China from Waukesha early last year, and Xie decided to join her and a Chinese company that competes with GE in the MRI arena, the newspaper said. Xie maintained he never gave that company GE information and intended to use it solely for himself, the report added.

Xie, who did not retain counsel, agreed to cooperate with GE's investigation, according to a GE spokesperson.

In court documents, GE listed several warnings it issues to employees about keeping proprietary material secret. Xie admitted to reading one of the brochures and signed a proprietary information agreement, the civil suit said.

"GE considers theft of its intellectual property a very serious matter and will take all steps necessary to pursue those who engage in such acts," says the company's holding statement, transmitted to Qmed in an email. "We will cooperate fully with the government in its criminal investigation but, as a company policy, GE does not comment on ongoing litigation."

Refresh your medical device industry knowledge at MD&M Chicago, October 15-16, 2014, and MD&M Minneapolis, October 29-30, 2014.

Nancy Crotti is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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