General Electric (GE) has filed a lawsuit accusing “willful and malicious misappropriation of GE’s trade secrets” by Siemens Energy, charging that a current Siemens employee “knowingly and surreptitiously” received GE intellectual property, which led to Siemens using the information to improve its own bids for lucrative contracts supplying gas turbines to utilities.
GE in the lawsuit filed Jan. 14 said the alleged stolen trade secrets resulted in GE losing a contract to provide gas turbine units and maintenance services for a project in Virginia, a deal potentially worth as much as $340 million. GE said the “trade secrets misappropriated by Siemens are relevant to at least eight other turbine contracts that Siemens unfairly won over GE’s competing bid” across a 16-month period. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges Siemens accrued business gains of “billions of dollars of contracts” with the actions.
GE in the suit also said the trade secrets are “directly relevant to a pending South Carolina RFP [request for proposal] for which GE is currently bidding its gas turbine units against Siemens.”
A GE spokesperson told POWER, “At GE, we aggressively protect and defend our Intellectual Property. As this litigation is ongoing, we have no further comment at this time.”
Siemens has not responded to a request for comment.
Case Traces Back to May 2019
GE in the lawsuit alleges the theft goes back to May 2019. Both GE and Siemens were vying to provide gas turbine equipment and services to Virginia-based utility Dominion Energy. The lawsuit alleges that during the bidding process, a senior Dominion employee began sending a Siemens account manager confidential business information GE had submitted in its bid. The suit alleges that the information included Dominion’s analysis of all bids for the project.
The lawsuit alleges that the Siemens recipient of GE’s trade secrets passed the information to colleagues, including those preparing the bid for the Dominion project. The suit says that information helped Siemens win the contract.
The lawsuit says, “GE submitted a bid package to Dominion that contained GE’s confidential trade secrets about four separate gas turbine models, including information about the technical specifications for those turbine models, the pricing structure for different combinations of turbine units, and the proprietary processes by which GE would service and maintain those turbine models [collectively, GE’s ‘Trade Secrets’].”
‘Blueprint’ for Winning Contract
GE alleges that documents provided by a Dominion employee to a Siemens account manager provided Siemens with a “blueprint” for winning the contract for the “Peakers Project” in Danville, Virginia. It also alleges those actions helped Siemens tailor “its unit specifications and pricing to most effectively compete against GE, while GE and other competitors remained in the dark.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Siemens used the trade secrets in part to win contracts as part of an effort to increase the price of Siemens Energy’s initial public offering of stock in September 2020, after the energy business was spun off from its Siemens AG parent.
The lawsuit says that the Dominion employee, no longer employed by the utility, passed the information to the Siemens manager at least a half-dozen times, including forwarding it from his personal email address to that of the Siemens manager’s wife. The lawsuit said the Siemens account manager remains employed by the company.
GE’s lawsuit says Siemens only alerted GE to improperly receiving the trade secrets 16 months later, in September 2020. GE described the notification as a “nothing to see here, folks” letter, according to the lawsuit. GE in the lawsuit says the letter from Siemens came after Siemens completed its own internal investigation and Dominion finished its own inquiry. The lawsuit says Dominion alerted GE to the alleged malfeasance before Siemens did.
GE has asked for Siemens to cease using the allegedly stolen material and pay damages totaling hundreds of millions of dollars or more. The lawsuit says that Siemens has “steadfastly refused” to assure GE that documents containing the trade secrets have been destroyed.
GE in the suit said the alleged theft has put the company at a competitive disadvantage for upcoming contracts valued at $120 million apiece, or more. The lawsuit also says a resolution is needed quickly, as the companies are competing on another bid, due Jan. 19, for a Dominion project.
Siemens and GE have battled previously in patent infringement lawsuits, including as recently as last fall, when Siemens Gamesa in late September filed a patent infringement complaint against GE Renewable Energy in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.
Siemens Gamesa in the complaint alleged that GE’s Haliade-X offshore wind turbine infringes on Siemens Gamesa’s offshore Direct Drive technology patents.
—Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine). POWER senior associate editor Sonal Patel contributed to this report.