Kevlar (R), a high-strength para-aramid fiber created by E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and famously used in body armor for soldiers and police officers, is the subject of a recent criminal indictment by the U.S. Justice Department against Kolon Industries, Inc. and several of its executives. According to the October 18, 2012 press release, Kolon and several of its executives allegedly engaged in a multi-year campaign to steal trade secrets related to DuPont’s Kevlar product. The criminal indictment follows a jury award of $920 million and 20 year injunction issued late last year in a civil case between DuPont and Kolon venued in the Eastern District of Virginia and currently on appeal to the 4th Circuit.
In the civil case, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne found that, after twenty years of unsuccessful attempts to produce a competitive para-aramid product on its own, Kolon intentionally retained former DuPont employees to disclose trade secrets regarding the manufacture of Kevlar, including machine configurations and processes that Kolon used “in every stage of its own production.” On September 21, 2012, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to stay the permanent injunction while the decision is under review.
These high profile civil and criminal cases suggest that Kevlar may join the recipe for Coca-Cola as one of the most famous trade secrets in American jurisprudence. Anyone who practices in the area of trade secrets knows that the recipe for Coca-Cola is the quintessential example of a trade secret. Other famous examples include WD-40, Listerine, and KFC’s 11 herbs and spices. To that pantheon we can now add: Kevlar.