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Judge Orders Chinese Wind-Turbine Maker To Pay $59 Million For Stealing Trade Secrets


A Sinovel wind turbine is seen in Charlestown, Mass. in 2013. U.S. District Judge James Peterson today ordered Sinovel to pay fines up to $59 million for stealing trade secrets.

A Sinovel wind turbine is seen in Charlestown, Mass. in 2013. U.S. District Judge James Peterson today ordered Sinovel to pay fines up to $59 million for stealing trade secrets.

Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A federal judge has ordered China’s largest wind turbine firm, Sinovel, to pay $59 million for stealing trade secrets from a Massachusetts-based technology company.

Last January, Sinovel was found guilty of stealing trade secrets in federal criminal court in Madison, Wisconsin. The company paid an Austria-based employee of the American Superconductor Corp to steal the source code for software that powered wind turbines.

This kind of intellectual property theft has been highlighted by the Trump Administration as a reason for levying 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods entering the U.S., which began on Friday. China retaliated with tariffs on $34 billion worth of U.S. goods.

The Chinese company Sinovel was the largest customer of American Superconductor Corp. And then Sinovel suddenly began rejecting shipments of the company’s electronic components in 2011.

The Massachusetts tech company learned that Sinovel was using a pirated version of the software it made in the wind turbines it installed.

The ordeal left AMSC in perilous financial shape, and Wall Street analysts wrote it off as dead. The U.S. Department of Justice said that AMSC lost more than a $1 billion in shareholder equity and 700 jobs.

Earlier this week, AMSC announced it had agreed to settle the lawsuit against the Chinese company for $57.5 million in restitution. U.S. District Judge James Peterson said the Chinese company has a year to pay the restitution, plus the Chinese company must also pay a fine of $1.5 million.

“Through Sinovel’s and AMSC’s joint efforts, we have signed a settlement agreement to resolve the previous disputes in a constructive manner that we believe will enable us to move on with out respective businesses,” said Daniel McGahn, AMSC’s president and CEO. “This closes a challenging chapter for AMSC.”

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