Trade-Secrets Case Linked to Google Seen as Warning to Silicon Valley

The federal indictment announced last week against a driverless-car engineer that accuses him of stealing trade secrets from Google’s parent company before he jumped to a rival is being viewed as a warning to Silicon Valley that prosecutors may scrutinize defections to competitors that involve sensitive technology.

Legal experts who specialize in intellectual property say they can’t think of another example in which federal agents pursued an expansive criminal case against a high-level U.S. tech employee accused of taking proprietary material to a new job. Traditionally, trade-secrets-theft cases have been brought by U.S. companies against a former employee, not by the Justice Department…

The charges come as Silicon Valley companies build more competitive and coveted technology, such as autonomous-driving systems, and as businesses take advantage of a 2016 law that allows companies to seek remedies in federal court for alleged misappropriation of trade secrets.