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DuPont Wins Kevlar Battle

By Karen Bitz-McIntyre, Editor | September 4, 2012

Virginia judge levies 20-year ban on Kolon’s sale of rival fiber.

A federal court has ruled in DuPont’s favor, barring South Korea’s Kolon Industries from making a synthetic fiber that competes against its Kevlar materials for 20 years. The decision, made in a Richmond, VA federal courtroom, followed Kolon’s request to put a permanent injunction on hold.

Last September, a Richmond, VA-based federal jury ordered Kolon pay DuPont $919 million for stealing trade secrets relating to Kevlar, a high-strength para-aramid fiber used in body armor, military helmets, tires and fiber-optic cables. DuPont first sued Kolon in 2009, accusing it of misusing proprietary information obtained from a former DuPont employee working at Kolon. That employee pled guilt to theft of trade secrets in 2010.

“The injunction, coming on the heels of DuPont’s $920 million damages award from last September, reaffirms what was already clear, that Kolon Industries willfully and maliciously misappropriated DuPont’s proprietary Kevlar technology,” says Thomas Sager, DuPont senior vice president and general counsel.

Kolon has until October 1 to remove and return DuPont’s trade secrets or face contempt proceedings.

In issuing the 20-year ban on activity related to para-aramid fibers, U.S. district Judge Robert Payne called Kolon’s use of stolen trade secrets “integral and essential” to its production of Heracron, the rival to Kevlar. He also said the judgment alone was not an adequate remedy, explaining that Kolon would still be free to use the stolen trade secrets at DuPont’s expense and that DuPont might have to go to South Korea to enforce the judgment.

DuPont began selling Kevlar in 1965. According to court documents, it has a 70% share of the U.S. para-aramid fiber market.

"We are pleased that the judge has enforced the protection of our Kevlar trade secrets. DuPont has devoted more than 40 years and considerable expense to research and refine Kevlar to make it the world’s most trusted aramid fiber,” says Thomas Powell, president of DuPont Protection Technologies. “It is important not only to us but also to our customers that we are able to continue to innovate and invest in our business, our brands and our latest technologies, including our new facility to make Kevlar near Charleston, SC. The judge’s order sends a clear message to Kolon and others that they cannot benefit from the theft of our trade secrets.”

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