ASML Says Ex-Employee in China Misappropriated Chip Data

(Bloomberg) — ASML Holding NV, the leading maker of lithography machines for producing semiconductors, said a former employee in China stole data about its proprietary technology and export controls may have been violated as a result.

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ASML said it reported the data breach to authorities and initiated an internal review. It’s also implemented remedial measures after the incident.

It’s the second time in as many years that ASML has leveled charges against Chinese entities. A year ago, ASML accused a Beijing-based firm of potentially stealing its trade secrets.

It’s unclear in the latest disclosure if the data stolen could be employed in developing lithography systems, ASML’s specialty. But the company said in its annual report that the theft, which it’s still investigating, isn’t material to its business. ASML is restricted from selling its most-advanced lithography machines to China.

The Dutch company is one of the key players in the rising conflict between the US and China over access to semiconductor technology. Washington implemented sweeping restrictions on American companies’ ability to export chip-making equipment last year, and has since persuaded the Netherlands and Japan to join the effort.

ASML’s Chief Executive Officer Peter Wennink has resisted some of the restrictions on his company’s ability to sell into China. He has warned that China will ultimately develop its own domestic alternatives if it cannot buy from the West.

ASML is considered one of the most advanced developers of machines that giants from Intel Corp. to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. employ to make their highest-end chips.

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