Equipment manufacturer Liebherr Mining & Construction Equipment has filed a lawsuit against six former employees of its Newport News production plant for stealing thousands of design documents used to manufacture mining trucks.

The company has alleged that the employees sold the information to manufacturers in China who would copy their products.

In addition, a Detroit engineering firm has also been sued for assisting Chinese companies with designs.

Liebherr is also suing Chinese manufacturing partnerships that imitated its 400t diesel truck.

According to the company, workers stole the documents by downloading files from their computers onto thumb drives and USB devices, Daily Press reported.

In the lawsuit, the company asked for compensatory damages of $40m, which includes $350,000 in punitive damages from each defendant.

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"The case also alleges that the stolen documents…allowed the companies in China to construct trucks resembling Liebherr’s style."

Liebherr is further demanding that the companies should be prevented from producing or selling any trucks or truck designs thought to be based on its designs.

The 104-page complaint filed in 2013 by Brett A Spain and David A Kushner with Wilcox & Savage involves the theft of trade secrets from a manufacturing facility in the US.

The case also alleges that the stolen documents, such as truck designs, vendor information and factory layouts, allowed the companies in China to construct trucks resembling Liebherr’s style.

Some of the defendant companies are said to have replaced Liebherr’s name on the documents with their own.

The initial complaint was filed in late 2010 and a jury trial is set for this year.

Image: Liebherr’s diesel-electric powered Liebherr T282 B dumper / dump truck / mining truck. Photo: courtesy of René Engel.