On May 1, 2013, a former General Motors (GM) employee named Shanshan Du and her husband, Yu Qin, were sentenced to prison for stealing hybrid technology from General Motors.

According to Yahoo News, Shanshan Du was “convicted of stealing thousands of pages of hybrid technology.”  She was also convicted of “conspiracy and possessing trade secrets.”  Her husband was convicted of the same crimes, plus “fraud and obstruction of justice.”

What Is the Usual Minimum Sentence for Similar Crimes:

According to Yahoo News, Federal guidelines recommend a minimum sentence of 6½ years for similar crimes.  That is exactly what Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken wanted for the couple.  However, the Judge didn’t seem to agree. U.S. District Judge named Marianne Battani sentenced Du to only one year in prison for her crimes.  The Judge said “economic espionage is a serious crime” but reduced her sentence partly due to her health problems.  In fact, Du’s sentence can be reduced to 10 months for good behavior.  Qin, on the other hand, was sentenced to three years in prison.

What Are Trade Secrets?

Trade secrets include any information, which is not generally known, or readily available about a business that has economic value.   Sometimes the value of a company’s intangible assets may exceed the value of the tangible assets.  That is why businesses want to protect these secrets.

For more information about trade secrets, click here to watch a helpful video about trade secrets.