Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Don't steal your company's IP!

With the SOPA/PIPA blackout at Wikipedia today, it's appropriate that we're covering yet another dumb IP theft case by an organic chemist. From Ed Silverman at Pharmalot:
Yuan Li began was hired as a medicinal chemist for Sanofi nearly six years ago. During that time, she worked on countless compounds and signed all the usual paperwork in which she acknowledged there were no conflicts of interest and that the intellectual property belonged to the drugmaker. But last year, Sanofi learned otherwise. 
In May 2011, a little-known company called Abby Pharmatech began advertising chemical compounds on its web site and by the following month, Sanofi had identified more than 6,000 propriety chemical structures on an online database called SciFinder that were registered to Abby Pharmatech.
MICE wins again! She pled guilty to trade secret theft -- she's facing $250,000 in fines and possibly 10 years in prison.

You have to love what her attorney had to say about the matter, (via the Star-Ledger):
Her attorney, Paul Brickfield, said the compounds his client had listed for sale on the Abby website were not actually bought by anyone. He did note that since Li had posted the chemical structure of the Sanofi compounds, the information could have been used by others to develop competing compounds or eventually drugs. "She’s a young lady and she made a terrible error," he added.
There's an obvious lesson here: don't steal your company's IP. Even if you think they're not going to use it, even if you think you're not going to get caught, it's wrong -- and they will come down on you eventually. At best, you'll lose your job. At worst, you'll be caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck driven by merciless federal prosecutors.


  1. CJ, what's up with the rash of Chemistry IP theft lately? MICE aside, how stupid were these folks to believe that they wouldn't be caught? Since the S-A Bridgewater site is getting scuttled anyway, couldn't Ms. Li wait until after being separated from S-A to start doing "independent: research?

  2. With the ease of database access, Google image searching, and IP tracking, who sends confidential company secrets blindly out onto the Internet? Especially if your compounds are easily tracked back to a specific project or functional group!

    Maybe handwrite them with an ink quill on parchment, seal them with wax, and send them out with a black-cloaked horse rider at midnight? : )

    1. Mailing the stolen procedures abroad on a thumb drive might be a better alternative, especially if the thumb drive was pilfered from your colleague at work hence has his personal files and fingerprints on it, and the data was downloaded from his computer... Just saying, purely as a thought experiment.

  3. Here's a list of current and recent federal cases related to illegal technology transfer. Mostly weapons, but our friend from Utah is there, as well as a couple of guys from Dow in separate cases.



looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20