Could a DuPont trade secrets case be marred by prejudice?

DuPont is suing former engineering consultant Walter Liew for attempt to capitalize on company trade secrets

DuPont Co. claims that former engineering consultant Walter Liew attempted to sell company trade secrets, and now the company is suing him for damages. But is the case, as some lawyers say, tainted by Chinese prejudice?

According to prosecutors, the Chinese government asked Liew, who is Malaysian-born but a U.S. citizen, to seek out titanium dioxide technology. Liew’s now-defunct company Performance Technology Inc. then obtained trade secrets from ex-DuPont employees concerning the technology and won a contract to build a titanium dioxide plant in China for $29 million. DuPont had previously refused to license the technology to China.

Opening arguments in the case against Liew are set for Jan.7. Liew’s Chinese wife and two ex-DuPont employees are also charged in the case. Liew could face up to 15 years in prison and millions in fines if found guilty.

Liew’s lawyers are concerned that the case may not receive a fair trial specifically because the alleged IP theft occurred in China. According to Bloomberg, attorney Stuart Gasner said in a court filing that the case was “likely to inflame passion and prejudice based on race and nationality.”

The defense also argued that Liew was “engaged in a legitimate effort to design a plant within legal boundaries,” as Gasner said. “A vast number of details of the DuPont process have been publicly disclosed in numerous patents, textbooks and other sources.”

The prosecution may not have helped dispute Gasner’s assertions with its proposed testimony from Georgetown University Law Center professor James Feinerman. Feinerman copied material directly from Wikipedia on parts of 13 pages of his 19-page proposed testimony, which presiding U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White called “extremely troubling.”

As part of his proposed testimony, Feinerman also wrote that “an extraordinary number of Chinese in business and government are engaged in this practice.”  White barred Feinerman from testifying this in court. White also barred the prosecution from replacing Feinerman with a different witness, saying it was “too late.”

 

DuPont isn’t the only company with trade secrets, and InsideCounsel has your trade secrets stories covered:

Inside: When an employee leaves: Practical guidelines for enforcing non-competes

Litigation: Examining the ‘fiduciary exception’ to the attorney-client privilege

Top 5 cybersecurity trends for 2014

IP: 3D printing can create trade secrets misappropriation opportunities

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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