SAN JOSE – Peter Kisang Kim, a former Broadcom Inc. engineer, was sentenced today to eight months in prison for trade secret theft involving Broadcom trade secrets, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan. The sentence was handed down by the Hon. Beth Labson Freeman, United States District Judge.
Kim, 51, a resident of Ben Lomond, pleaded guilty to the crimes on May 10, 2022. According to documents filed in the case, Broadcom is headquarted in San Jose and its products include networking chips used in equipment sold worldwide, including for enterprise and data center networking. In July 2020, Kim had been employed by Broadcom for over twenty years and worked as a principal design engineer at the company. He worked on various Broadcom products during his time at the company, including the Trident family of chips frequently used in high-volume data centers.
Kim resigned from Broadcom effective July 17, 2020, and in the days before he left Broadcom, Kim copied more than 500 Broadcom files from its document repository system. In pleading to trade secret theft, he admitted to possessing Broadcom trade secrets related to the Trident family of chips, including those contained in test plans, design verification environment files, and design specifications. He admitted that he knowingly possessed the Broadcom trade secrets knowing that he took them from Broadcom. He also acknowledged that Broadcom took reasonable measures to keep the Broadcom trade secrets secret, including by storing the trade secrets on non-public document repositories in which the access permissions were restricted, requiring appropriate nondisclosure agreements to be executed before the trade secrets could be shared outside Broadcom, and in view of the confidentiality agreements Kim signed with Broadcom and the annual trainings he received, among other things.
Less than two weeks after he left Broadcom, Kim began working as IC Design Verification Director for a startup company based in the People's Republic of China ("PRC"). Kim acknowledged in his plea agreement that the company was seeking to become a leading chip designer focused on the PRC's domestic market for networking chips at the time. During Kim's employment at his new company, Kim repeatedly accessed and referenced the Broadcom trade secrets on his personal electronic devices as well as the laptop issued by his new employer, as he admitted in his plea agreement. Further, Kim reviewed the Broadcom trade secrets on his company-issued laptop while also working on verification, test plan, and architecture documents for his new employer.
Kim admitted in his plea agreement that, having taken the Broadcom trade secrets for reference purposes, he knew that having them could advance the quality of his work as an employee for his new employer and therefore economically benefit the company. Kim also admitted that he knew that his actions could injure Broadcom, including because his new employer was seeking to become a competitor to Broadcom by developing competing products abroad.
On November 4, 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Kim charging him with eighteen counts of trade secret theft associated with Broadcom. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Kim pleaded guilty to three counts. In accordance with the terms of his plea agreement, the remaining counts were dismissed today in connection with his sentencing.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Freeman imposed a three-year term of supervised release on Kim following incarceration, restitution to the victim Broadcom, and a fine.
The cases were prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Cheng and Kyle Waldinger from the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, with the assistance of Margoth Turcios, Kathy Tat, and Megan Pagaduan. The prosecutions are the result of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.