Peter Kisang Kim, a former Broadcom Inc. engineer, was sentenced Tuesday to eight months in prison for trade secret theft involving Broadcom trade secrets. The sentence was handed down by the District Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose.
Kim, 51, a resident of Ben Lomond, pleaded guilty to the crimes on May 10.
Broadcom is headquartered 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 20 years and worked as a principal design engineer at the company, according to prosecutors. 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 in July 2020, and in the days before he left Broadcom, he admitted to prosecutors that he copied more than 500 Broadcom files from its document repository system. In pleading to trade secret theft, Kim 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 in 2020, Kim began working as IC Design Verification Director for a startup company based in the People’s Republic of China, according to U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan.
Kim acknowledged in his plea agreement that the company was new seeking to become a leading chip designer focused on China’’s domestic market for networking chips at the time.
During Kim’s employment at his new company, prosecutors said Kim repeatedly accessed and referenced Broadcom trade secrets on his personal electronic devices as well as the laptop issued by his new employer. Kim also 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.
A federal grand jury indicted Kim last November, charging him with 18 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 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.