US wind turbine employee admits selling IP to Sinovel

September 22, 2011

A report in claims that authorities in Austria have confirmed that a former American Superconductor (AMSC) employee, accused of selling wind-turbine technology secrets to China's Sinovel, has admitted a charge of "fraudulent misuse of data processing."

The 38-year-old Serbian national – a former systems integrator at AMSC’s Austrian subsidiary Windtec, who remains unnamed for legal reasons – is accused of selling key elements of the US company's wind-power electronics software code to China’s biggest turbine manufacturer.

Helmut Jamnig, spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in Klagenfurt, says the man admits being paid around €15,000 (USD20,500) to pass the data to Sinovel between January and June this year.

According to AMSC, damages incurred to the company through theft of the technology are in the region of  €6m. The defendant denies AMSC suffered losses to this extent, according to a summary of the case released by the court that will hear his case in Austria.

The former Windtec worker will appear at the Klagenfurt district court on Friday.

Reports have emerged in the US claiming to give further details of the events leading up to the man’s arrest, which was dramatically revealed by AMSC during a conference with financial analysts last week.

These suggest that AMSC made the discovery in June when a field crew in China noticed that the blades were spinning on a wind turbine that was supposed to be non-operational.

AMSC is planning civil and criminal legal action in China against Sinovel – formerly its biggest customer – over alleged IP infringements.

Sinovel has issued a statement denying the accusations, claiming instead that AMSC’s products were prone to failure and unsuitable for Chinese power grid requirements, according to Recharge News.