DuPont Wins $900Million Award in Kevlar Case

Chemical Giant DuPont Co. has been awarded  $920 million in damages by a U.S. federal jury who found, South Korean based, Kolon Industries Inc. guilty of stealing trade secrets about the manufacture of the DuPont product Kevlar, an anti-ballistic fiber used in police and military gear.

The US firm alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) that Michael Mitchell, a former DuPont engineer and Kevlar marketing executive, had confidential information on his home computer. The FBI searched his house and found DuPont documents and confidential information belonging to DuPont, federal prosecutors said last year. Authorities said Mr. Mitchell had given Kolon proprietary information about Kevlar. Mitchell was sentenced to 18 months in prison last March after pleading guilty to theft of trade secrets and obstruction of justice.

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DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, called the award one of the largest in a trade secrets case. “This was a concerted, orchestrated and persistent effort on behalf of Kolon and senior management to steal our trade secrets,” General Counsel Thomas Sager told Reuters. The “jury decision is an enormous victory for global intellectual property protection,” Thomas L. Sager, DuPont’s general counsel, said in a statement. “It also sends a message to potential thieves of intellectual property that DuPont will pursue all legal remedies to protect our significant investment in research and development.”

Kolon Industries said it would appeal the verdict and was “confident that a fair and favourable decision will be reached on appeal”. The firm is also counter-suing DuPont.

Stephanie Kwolek a chemist at DuPont developed Kevlar in 1964. The company began marketing it in 1965 initially for use in car and truck tires. Kevlar which is 5 times stronger than steel is now used in a wide variety of products from:  personal body armour, kayaks, suspension bridge cable, bicycle tires and fibre-optic cable.

Kevlar and Nomex, a related fiber used in firefighting gear, accounted for about $1.4 billion of DuPont’s $31.5 billion in sales last year.

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