DuPont Co., the inventor of Kevlar, won a ruling barring Kolon Industries Inc.’s sales of a competing version of the product used in protective clothing for police and the military for the next 20 years.
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.
The case is E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Industries Inc., 09-cv-00058, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Richmond).