Tokyo Police Arrest Suspect in Corporate Secrets Theft Case; Man Allegedly Took Data from Electronics Firm Alps Alpine

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Metropolitan Police Department is seen in November 2020 in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo.

The police suspect the man illegally acquired trade secrets from Alps Alpine Co. in Ota Ward, Tokyo, which is listed on the Prime section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, while working in an auto-related department of the company.

The man then moved to a major automaker in Japan, and the police are investigating on suspicion that the man tried to use the data at his new company.

According to the police, the man saved trade secrets related to the design of in-vehicle equipment of Alps Alpine to his personal hard disk from a company-owned personal computer in November 2021 when he was an employee of the company.

He quit the company later that month and soon moved to the automaker, the police said.

The man is believed to have been granted rights to access data on trade secrets at Alps Alpine. The Public Security Bureau is investigating to determine whether he stole any more data. It also is questioning his motives and other details of the alleged crime, suspecting that he aimed to use the data at the automaker.

Alps Alpine was created through a merger between electronic components manufacturer Alps Electric Co. and car-navigation maker Alpine Electronics, Inc. in January 2019. Alps Alpine is mainly engaged in the manufacture of in-vehicle products such as car navigation and car audio systems. The company’s consolidated net sales for its business year that ended in March 2023 were about ¥933.1 billion.

The Unfair Competition Prevention Law bans the illegitimate acquisition and divulging of trade secrets created through research and development by companies and other entities. The purpose of the law is to promote fair competition. There has been a recent spate of incidents, however, in which secret trade information has been leaked by former employees to rival firms and other entities.

In September last year, the MPD arrested a former president of Kappa Create Co., which operates the Kappa Sushi chain of conveyer-belt sushi restaurants, on suspicion of violating the law. The man had been an executive of Hama-Sushi Co., the operator of another conveyer-belt sushi chain that is a rival of Kappa Sushi, and allegedly took Hama-Sushi trade secrets with him when he moved to Kappa Sushi.

In September this year, a former member of the Sojitz Corp. trading company was arrested on suspicion of illegally acquiring trade secrets in files from his previous employer, the Kanematsu Corp. major trading company, a competitor.