ASML claims China employee stole chip manufacturing tech data

16 Feb 2023

Image: © Eagle/

While the ‘misappropriation’ is not material to its business, ASML claims the breach in China violates export control regulations.

ASML, a global semiconductor equipment maker based in the Netherlands, has claimed that a former employee in China stole information about its technology last year.

In its latest annual report, ASML said it experienced “unauthorised misappropriation of data” relating to proprietary technology by an employee in China who no longer works for them.

This is likely to further fuel ongoing tensions between the US and China on espionage grounds. It also comes at a sensitive time for the semiconductor industry as a global chip shortage continues to disrupt the supply chain.

Europe’s largest tech company by market capitalisation, ASML specialises in the development and manufacturing of photolithography machines used to produce advanced computer chips. The machines use lasers to print tiny patterns on silicon used to manufacture key microchips.

“Based upon our initial findings, we do not believe that the misappropriation is material to our business. However, as a result of the security incident, certain export control regulations may have been violated,” the company wrote in its report.

Other than reporting the incident to relevant authorities in the Netherlands and US, ASML said it is also implementing “additional remedial measures” in light of this incident.

This is the second time in recent years that the company has pointed to China for alleged violations of its intellectual property rights.

In its 2021 report, ASML said Chinese semiconductor equipment maker DongFang JingYuan Electron “was actively marketing products in China that could potentially infringe on ASML’s IP rights”. Beijing-based DongFang JingYuan Electron denied the allegations.

The latest report of a data breach comes as the US and China are embroiled in diplomatic tensions as the US airforce had to recently shoot down a Chinese balloon over its airspace, alleging the flying object was being used for surveillance purposes.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic