Last year saw many important trade secret developments in the court. Here is our Top 5:

1. DuPont v. Kolon

This case had it all. What appeared at first to be the actions of one disgruntled employee turned out to be a long-standing high-level initiative of Kolon to target former DuPont employees in order to develop its fledgling para-aramid fiber using the secrets behind industry standard Kevlar. There was spoliation, 400 page expert reports arguing all of DuPont’s trade secrets were disclosed in its own patents, antitrust counterclaims, criminal charges, Korean investigations, a two-month jury trial culminating in a damages award just shy of a billion dollars, an appeal, and finally—in 2015—resolution. This epic battle came to end with Kolon being criminally indicted, paying $275 million to DuPont in restitution, and settling the civil case under undisclosed terms. Read about it here.


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On Wednesday November 2, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the pending Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015, S. 1890. We have previously reported on the Act, which will create a federal civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation, which includes an ex parte seizure provision.

The hearing began with Chairman Grassley making opening comments about the importance of trade secrets protection and meeting the increased threats of misappropriation in this global and mobile world. Each of the four witnesses then gave opening statements, followed by a question and answer period in which several members of the Committee took part. The witnesses included DuPont’s Chief IP Counsel Karen Cochran, Corning’s Chief IP Counsel Tom Beall, and Professor Sharon Sandeen (who opposes the Act). There were several notable moments at the hearing:

  • Ms. Cochran, holding up a Kevlar® bulletproof vest, explained that DuPont’s experience in the Kolon case (in which Crowell & Moring represented DuPont) helped inform DuPont of the need for the Act. Specifically, she explained, (i) the need for assured access to federal courts in technology based trade secret cases and (ii) the need for access to the court to immediately halt the further dissemination of trade secrets and evidence destruction.


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Crowell & Moring’s work on the DuPont v. Kolon matter, one of the largest trade secrets cases of its kind, was recognized at The American Lawyer’s third annual Global Legal Awards, winning “Global Dispute of the Year: U.S. Litigation.” The firm represented DuPont in recovering Kevlar® trade secrets stolen by a South Korean conglomerate. After

FBI Building Seal Cropped
[via Flickr user Gary Bartram]

One remarkable aspect of the resolution announced last week in the long-running DuPont-Kolon trade secrets dispute is the transfer of $275 million to our client DuPont through the criminal restitution process. This highlights an option for corporate victims of trade secrets theft that is too often overlooked – initiation of criminal proceedings in parallel with civil litigation.  In fact, in some cases, a criminal trade secrets theft investigation and prosecution may eliminate the need for costly civil litigation entirely.
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E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. settled its long-running trade secret dispute against Kolon Industries, Inc. over the theft of trade secrets related to DuPont’s flagship Kevlar® product. Crowell & Moring attorneys, in partnership with McGuireWoods LLP, represented DuPont in the six-year battle.

Kolon also pled guilty to one count of a conspiracy to convert trade secrets in the related criminal matter brought by the United States Department of Justice, and agreed to pay DuPont $275 million in restitution, along with $80 million in criminal fines. Previously, two former DuPont employees pled guilty to trade secret violations for their consulting work with Kolon. One of the employees served an 18-month prison term, and the other is awaiting sentencing.


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