U.S. District Judge Robert Payne in Richmond, Virginia yesterday barred Kolon from selling products in the U.S. made with its para-aramid fiber after a jury found last year that the South Korean manufacturer stole trade secrets relating to the Kevlar fiber and should pay more than $919 million in damages.
“The judge’s order sends a clear message to Kolon and others that they cannot benefit from the theft of our trade secrets,” Thomas Powell, a DuPont spokesman, said in an e- mailed statement.
DuPont, based in Wilmington, Delaware, is expanding Kevlar production to meet rising demand for armor and lightweight materials that reduce energy use. The company opened a $500 million plant in South Carolina last year to boost output of the material for use in products such as tires, auto parts and fiber-optic cables.
“Kolon is disappointed with the court’s rulings and does not believe an injunction, of any scope, is warranted either legally or factually,” Jeff Randall, a lawyer for the company, said in an e-mailed statement. “Kolon will immediately file a motion to stay the order.”
$1.5 Billion Sales
Kevlar, together with Nomex, a heat-resistant fiber used in firefighting gear, accounted for about $1.5 billion of DuPont’s $38 billion in sales last year, according to the company.
Jurors in federal court in Richmond found in September 2011 that Gyeonggi-based Kolon and its U.S. unit wrongfully obtained proprietary information about Kevlar by hiring some former DuPont engineers and marketers. Kolon sells the Heracron line of fibers as a competitor to Kevlar.
DuPont sued Kolon in February 2009 alleging it stole confidential Kevlar data. DuPont began selling the bullet- resistant fiber in 1965 and it’s used in body armor, military helmets, ropes, cables and tires. Kolon began making its own version of the para-aramid fiber in 2005.
Jurors found Kolon got access to Kevlar secrets by hiring Michael Mitcher, a former DuPont engineer who also had served as a Kevlar marketing executive.
In his order, Payne note that jurors concluded Kolon executives “willfully and maliciously misappropriated” Kevlar secrets and the company engaged in “unlawful conduct.”
As a result, Kolon is barred for a period of 20 years from “manufacturing, using, marketing, promoting, selling, distributing, offering for sale or soliciting customers for any para-aramid product,” the judge said.