US-China chip war: ASML claims a worker in China stole data

A cleanroom at ASML with employees

A former employee in China is accused by a leading manufacturer of computer chip equipment of stealing trade secrets.

The Dutch company claims that it has since informed Dutch and American authorities about the breach.

Nevertheless, the business continued by stating that it "does not believe that the misappropriation is material to our business. ".

One of the most significant businesses in the global microchip supply chain is ASML. It manufactures equipment that makes the most cutting-edge chips in the world.

A bitter trade war between the US and China is centered on chips, also known as semiconductors, which power everything from mobile phones to military hardware.

In its most recent annual report, ASML disclosed that a (now) former employee in China had improperly misappropriated data relating to proprietary technology.

It's possible that certain export control laws were broken as a result of the security incident. In light of this incident, we are implementing additional corrective measures, it continued.

The former employee's name was withheld, and ASML did not specify which export control laws might have been broken.

A BBC request for comment received no immediate response from the company.

A BBC request for comment received no immediate response from the Chinese embassy in Washington.

The infringement of intellectual property (IP) has previously been connected to China by ASML.

According to the company's 2021 annual report, DongFang JingYuan Electron, a Chinese manufacturer of semiconductor hardware and software, "was actively marketing products in China that could potentially infringe on ASML's IP rights.". ".

Denying the accusations, DongFang JingYuan Electron.

The Beijing-based company claimed that the reports were "inconsistent with the facts" at the time.

In addition, it stated, "We reserve the right to pursue any additional legal remedies against the relevant false information.".

Export restrictions to China have been imposed on significant semiconductor companies.

Washington announced in October that it would demand licenses from businesses exporting chips to China made with US equipment or software, regardless of where in the world they were produced.

The Netherlands and Japan have been under US pressure to enact similar limitations.

The sale of ASML's most sophisticated lithography machines to China has been prohibited by the Dutch government since 2019.

Microchips are made using lithography machines, which use lasers to print tiny patterns on silicon.

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