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Ex-central Japan robotics firm employee arrested on suspicion of stealing trade secrets

Aichi Prefectural Police headquarters is seen in this file photo. (Mainichi/Hiroki Sameshima)

NAGOYA -- A former employee of a major electronics firm based in the central Japan city of Kariya was arrested on Sept. 24 by Aichi Prefectural Police on suspicion of violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Act by taking confidential business information such as industrial robot blueprints from his then employer.

    Hiroyuki Kuroe, 41, who lives in the Aichi prefectural city of Tokai, is accused of breaching legal duties regarding the trade secrets belonging to Yutaka Electronics Industry Co. The suspect, a former salesperson at the firm, is said to have copied data, including information pertaining to production layout blueprints and industrial robot system setups, from a company computer on Aug. 20, 2019 and then taken it off-site. The external hard drive he used to store the information reportedly has around 16,000 files on it, of which 59 contain trade secrets.

    According to prefectural police, Kuroe left the company at the end of the same month, and started work at another company in the same industry on Sept. 1, 2019. Because his actions broke a pledge he had made not to join a competitor after leaving Yutaka Electronics Industry, the company began an internal investigation. It was then that the removal of data was discovered.

    Kuroe is reported to have partially denied the accusations, and is relayed as having said, "I did not intend to illegally profit from it." But, in a voluntary interview before his arrest he is reported to have made remarks to the effect that he did it because he thought he "would be treated preferentially at the new workplace." It appears that there has been no leaking of information to Kuroe's subsequent employer.

    Yutaka Electronics Industry was founded in 1964. Since 1980, the company has been in the industrial robotics systems market, and is involved in robot development and maintenance. It has bases in six other countries, including the U.S., China, Thailand and Mexico.

    (Japanese original by Hitomi Takai and Kazuki Sakuma, Nagoya News Center)

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