It seems a bad time for South Korean companies in patent wars. First there was the news of Samsung being floored by Apple over designs and now comes news that DuPont has won a 20-year ban on Kolon, a South Korean company, from creating a competing version of Kevlar. DuPont is the inventor of Kevlar, a synthetic fiber used all across the world for building body armor and bulletproof vests.
On Friday, Kolon asked U.S. District Judge Robert Payne in Richmond, Virginia to block his permanent injunction pending Kolon’s appeal, but later on the day DuPont filed papers opposing that request. Kolon said the ban would cause an “uncompensated death” of an entire business and cause irreparable harm.
While issuing the 20-year ban on Kolon’s activity related to para-aramid fibers, judge Payne said that Kolon’s use of stolen trade secrets was “integral and essential” to continuing its production of Heracron, a rival to Kevlar and Twaron, made by Japan’s Teijin Ltd. The judge also said the meager $919.9 million judgment was inadequate as a remedy as Kolon would still be free to use the trade secrets stolen from DuPont, and DuPont might need to go to South Korea to enforce the judgment.
Payne wrote, “That Kolon found it necessary as a matter of corporate policy to misappropriate DuPont’s trade secrets to augment the knowledge and efforts of its own research staff illustrates that, left to its own devices, Kolon simply would not have developed the trade secrets it misappropriated.” He also said the ‘irreparable harm’ alluded to by Kolon as “which it brought upon itself and which, by right, it should suffer.”
DuPont sued Kolon in 2009 accusing it of misusing proprietary information obtained from Michael Mitchell, a 24-year DuPont veteran who left DuPont and later began working with Kolon. Mitchell pleaded guilty in 2010 to theft of trade secrets and served most of an 18-month prison term, according to prison records.