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DuPont sues Chinese scientist for trade-secret theft

Jaikumar Vijayan | Sept. 10, 2009
Hong Meng accused of stealing data on thin-screen tech to help rivals

FRAMINGHAM, 9 SEPTEMBER 2009 - For the second time in less than three years, a research scientist at DuPont has been accused of misappropriating trade secrets from the company and attempting to use them to build competing products in China.

In a lawsuit filed in Delaware Chancery Court, DuPont accused Hong Meng, a former senior research scientist at the company, of stealing data on a new, thin-computer display technology called "organic light emitting diode" or OLED. DuPont claims that Meng planned to use the stolen information to develop and commercialize products using OLED technology with his alma mater, Peking University, in Beijing, which is also developing similar technology.

In a brief statement sent via email, DuPont confirmed that it filed suit against Meng for theft of trade secrets and breach of his employment agreement.

"As indicated by our civil complaint, a recent internal investigation revealed evidence that Hong Meng was attempting to misappropriate proprietary company information," Thomas Sager, DuPont's general counsel, said in the statement. "Hong Meng's employment with the company was terminated and we promptly filed suit to ensure that he not use or disclose DuPont trade secrets," Sager said. The company its commitment to protecting the proprietary science and technology it has developed.

Meng worked at Dupont's Central Research and Development facility in Wilmington, Del. In its complaint, DuPont described him as a Chinese citizen with permanent resident status in the U.S. The company claimed that Meng secretly accepted employment at Peking University while he was still working for DuPont.

Meng's alleged theft was discovered around the time he was scheduled to be transferred to a DuPont facility in China last month. A standard review of Meng's hard drive during the transfer process disclosed an "illicit connection to Peking University," said DuPont. The company described the university as a rival because of its work involving OLED. A subsequent examination of Meng's company laptop indicated he had downloaded files related to the technology from DuPont's databases and copied them onto an external drive.

Meng denied wrongdoing but after being told about the data found on the laptop, admitting to possessing an external drive containing OLED-related data. A search of his home computer by DuPont's corporate security team allegedly showed that Meng had been working with Peking University over a "long period of time" and had launched a program at the school to commercialize OLED technology for industrial applications in "direct competition with DuPont," according to the lawsuit.

DuPont asked the court to issue a permanent injunction requiring Meng and those he worked with to return all misappropriated material. It also asked the court to issue an injunction prohibiting Meng from working with Peking University or with any other entity developing technologies that he worked on while at DuPont.


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