By Katherine Clarkson
Goodyear tyres were forced to call in the FBI when they suspected someone was spying on their closely guarded tyres technology.
The FBI probe led to charges of trade secret theft, wire fraud and conspiracy against two British engineers working for rival tyres company, Wyko Tyre Technology Inc, in Tennessee.
Accused Clark Alan Roberts, 46, and Sean Edward Howley, plead not guilty to the 12-count indictment.
Prosecutors allege Wyko got a contract in 2007 with Chinese tyre manufacturer Haohau South China Guilin Rubber Co. Ltd. to supply equipment to make large off-road tyres.
The indictment charges that Roberts and Howley visited a Goodyear plant in Topeka, Kansas, and while lying about the purpose of their visit, surreptitiously took cell phone photos of machinery that wraps rubber around cable used in making the large off-road tires.
It is alleged the men e-mailed the photos to employees of a Wyko subsidiary located in England, who used them to complete a similar piece of machinery for the Chinese tyres contract.