10 months ago
Liu Ruopeng, known as China's Elon Musk, is in the middle of an espionage scandal. Allegedly, Mr Ruopeng stole intellectual property from David Smith, a world-renowned metamaterials expert, while studying at Duke University from 2006 to 2009. The Typical Student team delivers the latest scoop.
Who Is Liu Ruopeng?
Liu Ruopeng, 35, is a Chinese entrepreneur, multi-billionaire associated with the Chinese conglomerate Kuang-Chi. He studied at Zhejiang University and Duke University (2006-2009). Liu Ruopeng’s net worth is US$1.3 billion according to the 2017 Forbes billionaire list. Known for his aspiration to send people into space, Liu Ruopeng is the person behind jet-powered surfboards.
The former assistant director of counterintelligence at the FBI, Frank Figliuzzi. believes that the Chinese government sent Liu to steal intellectual property”.
How Did the Alleged Intellectual Property Theft Happen?
Professor David Smith
Source: Duke University
David Smith is a professor at Duke University who has been working on metamaterials (as professor himself describes it, "some weird material that doesn't exist in nature"). Allegedly, Smith had been developing an invisibility cloak prototype for the US military that “had poured millions into his research.”
Make no mistake, the invisibility cloak doesn't make a person disappear like in Hollywood blockbusters. However, it makes people and objects invisible to microwave signals. While being a student at Duke, Liu Ruopeng allegedly convinced David Smith to let him work on professor’s projects together with other Chinese researchers.
Supposedly, when Smith was out of the lab, the Chinese scientists photographed everything in the lab and took measurements of the equipment. Later, Smith was surprised to learn that the exact copy of his invisibility cloak prototype was developed after the Chinese researchers returned home.
Liu has denied all the intellectual property theft allegations saying that his time at Duke was more about “sharing experience”. Nine years after graduation, he has become a multi-billionaire owing to the invention of a jet-powered surfboard. Strange as it may seem, Liu’s $6 billion-worth company features an invisibility cloak as one of its main assets!
Soon after Liu’s graduation in 2009, an email proving that Liu withheld the information from the professor, surfaced. It also proved that Liu was trying to commercialize the intellectual property he had allegedly stolen in China. Had the email been discovered earlier by the university officials, most certainly Liu would have never graduated with a Ph.D.
In 2010, a case was opened by the FBI to investigate the alleged US intellectual property theft. Frank Figliuzzi believes that “certain government officials and operatives” had approached Liu while he was a student as Duke and recruited him. Figluizzi says, Liu “was more than just a grad student taking something that didn't belong to him."
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