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Retired PPG chemist arrested for stealing trade secrets

A former PPG Industries Inc. chemist was arrested Thursday and charged in federal court in Pittsburgh with theft of trade secrets.

Thomas Rukavina, 62, of Plum Borough, Pennsylvania retired from glass-maker PPG in July of 2012.

The criminal complaint alleges that as early as June 2014, Rukavina passed proprietary and confidential information to J.T.M.G. Co., a glass company based in Jiangsu, China.

J.T.M.G. specializes in automotive and other specialty glass.

The trade secrets allegedly included PPG’s manufacturing specifications for windows made of synthetic plastics and used for high-speed transportation, including trains and airplanes.

In emails to the Chinese, Ruvakina said he was “forced out” at PPG.

He complained about PPG’s confidentiality agreements. “If PPG owns my brain for life, then they should pay me $2 million per year to keep it!!” he wrote.

He allegedly offered J.T.M.G. product technologies for specialty sealants and optical coatings.

PPG’s chief technology officer told the FBI the information could be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

*     *     *

Last week, Kolon Industries Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to steal trade secrets involving DuPont’s Kevlar technology. The South Korean company was penalized $360 million.

The DOJ also charged five former Kolon executives and employees, all South Koreans. They haven’t appeared in the United States to answer the charges.

In March last year, a federal jury in San Francisco found two individuals guilty of stealing trade secrets from DuPont and sending them to state-owned Chinese companies.

It was the first time a federal jury convicted defendants under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.

Walter Liew, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $28 million — the amount he collected for stealing and delivering the trade secrets.

The other defendant, Robert Maegerle, a 76-year-old former DuPont engineer with a terminally ill wife, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and ordered to forfeit $750,000.

The secrets they stole related to DuPont’s production technology for a type of titanium dioxide — a white pigment used in coatings and other specialty products.

*     *     *

In the PPG case, Rukavina faces up to ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or both.

On Monday in Pittsburgh, U.S. Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy ordered him to be held without bond and to have a psychiatric evaluation.

His lawyer, Lee Rothman, said Rukavina suffers from severe anxiety, depression, and insomnia and may not be able to assist in his own defense.

Rukavina is in the Allegheny County Jail. His next hearing is May 26. 

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania said in a statement last week: “Theft, whether hands-on or through cyber intrusions, diminishes our competitive edge in technology and product development and deprives our citizens of economic opportunities. We will aggressively pursue intellectual property theft regardless of who commits the crime.”

J.T.M.G. Co. hasn’t been charged.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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