Baidu sues former company executive for alleged IP theft
Chinese search-engine giant Baidu is suing Wang Jing, the former head of its autonomous driving unit, for alleged IP theft. Baidu says that Wang, who launched an autonomous vehicle startup in April, pilfered its self-driving car technology, broke contractual agreements and lured away technical staff. The RMB 50 million lawsuit - high by Chinese standards - was filed in Beijing's intellectual property court.
In a December report, The Financial Times noted that Baidu has a problem on its hands: A number of its former executives have founded autonomous vehicle startups of their own. Baidu is currently a leader in China's nascent self-driving car market, but it won't remain in that position for long if its talent exodus continues.
Wang Jing's California-based company Jingchi raised $52 million in September from venture capitalists. JingChi is one of 34 companies with a license to drive autonomous vehicles in the Golden State, which is enthusiastically embracing self-driving cars.
In addition to damages, Baidu is seeking a promise from Jingchi that the company will not use Baidu's "commercial secrets" to compete with the latter's autonomous vehicle businesses.
For its part Jingchi has denied any wrongdoing. “Baidu’s lawsuit is entirely without basis," Wang said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. "Our lawyers will respond factually and legally."
Regardless of the allegations, the increasing focus of Chinese technology firms on protecting intellectual property augurs good prospects for brand protection in the world's second largest economy. In a top-down society like China's, the government and large companies have outsized influence over market dynamics. For counterfeiting to fall in China, both of those entities must show zero tolerance for IP theft.