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Former DuPont chemist pleads guilty to theft of trade secrets; offense carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution

A former research chemist for E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company faces up to ten years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and restitution after pleading guilty to one count of theft of trade secrets from the science-based products and services company while researching organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), announced the US Attorney for the District of Delaware David C. Weiss. OLED technology represents the “next generation” of display and lighting applications. DuPont’s OLED research efforts resulted in the development of a breakthrough chemical process that increased the performance and longevity of OLED displays. The chemical process was considered a “trade secret” by DuPont, which took commensurate measures to protect it. The chemist was aware of these security measures and knew that the chemical process was a DuPont trade secret.

While still employed by DuPont and without company permission, the chemist accepted a position as a faculty member at Peking University’s (PKU) College of Engineering in Beijing, China. After accepting employment with PKU, he hired an assistant and graduate student; received office space, lab space, and an e-mail address; was listed as a faculty member on the PKU website; and gave a presentation to officials of a regional Chinese government, soliciting funding to commercialize his OLED research at PKU. The chemist failed to inform DuPont about his actions. He also e-mailed a Microsoft Word document to his PKU account that contained, embedded on the second page, the protected chemical process; the chemist downloaded the same document from his DuPont work computer to a thumb drive, which he subsequently uploaded to his personal computer. The chemist admitted that he knew to a “practical certainty” that his conduct in misappropriating the chemical process would injure DuPont, said the US Attorney’s Office. In addition, he sent a package with 109 samples of the intermediate compounds DuPont used in the OLED process to a colleague at Northwestern University and instructed his colleague to forward the materials to his PKU office; eight of the 109 samples were trade secret chemical compounds whose structures had not been publicly disclosed by DuPont, said the US Attorney’s Office.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for September 14 before Judge Sue L. Robinson of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.