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People v. Gopal

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Citation Edit

People v. Gopal, 171 Cal.App.3d 524, 217 Cal. Rptr. 487 (1985) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Defendant, Peter K. Gopal, together with three other individuals, was indicted in 1978 on a total of 23 counts relating to events surrounding the alleged theft of trade secrets from National Semiconductor and Intel Corporation who manufacture semiconductors and computer chip devices. The investigation involved a "sting" operation in which Gopal offered to sell National Semiconductor's 8080a microprocessor and then delivered that stolen property to Intel Corporate security officers resulting in his arrest, the issuance of a search warrant, and the seizure of additional stolen property.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Gopal's asserted a defense of legitimate "reverse engineering" concerning some of the materials and a lack of knowledge as to others, complicated by what might be described as "aggressive salesmanship" by Gopal in his conversations with those to whom he was trying to sell the chips. After lengthy pretrial proceedings and a 31-day court trial, Defendant Gopal was convicted of conspiracy, offering a bribe to obtain a trade secret and possession of stolen property under California Penal Code §§182, 499(c), and 496, respectively, and sentenced to prison.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

Gopal challenged the convictions and the sentence, arguing that articles involved did not embody trade secrets; receiving stolen trade secrets was not a crime; his rights to due process and a speedy trial were violated; and sentencing errors.

The appellate court rejected contentions by the defendant that none of the information claimed to be a trade secret was in fact or law a trade secret, and that receiving copies of stolen trade secrets is not a crime. The court held there was substantial evidence to support the trial court's findings that the various items involved (additional products reflecting an intermediate phase in the semiconductor manufacturing process) were the embodiment of trade secrets as defined in California Penal Code §499c.

It further held that under Cal. Penal Code §499c an article representing a trade secret includes a copy of such article, and that anything that may be the subject of a theft can also be property under Cal. Penal Code §496, so that the receipt of a copy of stolen trade secrets is a violation of Cal. Penal Code §496.

The court further held that, assuming there was error in the fact that there was only one day of testimony during a ten-and-one-half-week period after defendant began presentation of his case, due to congested court conditions attributable to exceptional circumstances, defendant was not prejudiced. It also rejected Defendant's contentions of sentencing errors.

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