ASML claims a Chinese employee stole data in the US-China chip war

employees in a cleanroom at ASML

A significant manufacturer of computer chip equipment, ASML, claims that a former worker in China stole knowledge of its technology.

According to the Dutch company, it has since notified US and Dutch authorities of the breach.

But the business went on to say that it "does not believe that the misappropriation is material to our business. ".

One of the most significant companies in the global supply chain for microchips is ASML. The most cutting-edge chips in the world are made by its machines.

The US and China are embroiled in a bitter trade war over chips, or semiconductors, which are used to power everything from mobile phones to military hardware.

In its most recent annual report, ASML stated, "We have experienced unauthorised misappropriation of data relating to proprietary technology by a (now) former employee in China.

"Some export control laws may have been broken as a result of the security incident. In response to this incident, we are putting additional corrective measures into place," it continued.

The former employee's identity and any information about potential export control laws that may have been broken were withheld by ASML.

An inquiry from the BBC for comment was not immediately answered by the company.

An inquiry from the BBC for comment was not immediately answered by the Chinese embassy in Washington.

ASML has previously connected a China-related intellectual property (IP) breach.

The company stated in its 2021 annual report that it was aware of claims that DongFang JingYuan Electron, a Chinese manufacturer of semiconductor hardware and software, "was actively marketing products in China that could potentially infringe on ASML's IP rights.". ".

The accusations were rejected by DongFang JingYuan Electron.

The Beijing-based company at the time claimed that the reports were "inconsistent with the facts.".

The statement continued, "We reserve the right to take any additional legal actions against the relevant false information.".

Export restrictions to China have affected some major semiconductor companies.

No matter where in the world the chips are produced, Washington announced in October that it would demand licenses from businesses exporting them to China using US equipment or software.

The US has been pressuring Japan and the Netherlands to enact similar limitations.

Since 2019, ASML has been prohibited by the Dutch government from selling its most sophisticated lithography equipment to China.

As part of the process of making microchips, lithography machines use lasers to print tiny patterns on silicon.

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