A former Dow research scientist has been charged with stealing trade secrets


A former Dow research scientist has been charged with stealing trade secrets.

The indictment alleges that Kexu Huang - a Chinese national who was granted permanent legal status in the US - stole trade secrets while employed at Dow AgroSciences from 2003 to 2008.

Huang has been accused of disclosing Dow trade secrets in a December 2008 article published through Hunan Normal University in China. The article was based on work supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), it alleges. In addition, after leaving Dow, Huang apparently used Dow trade secrets with funding from the NSFC to conduct further research.

’Complex cases like this one, where the challenge of highly technical evidence is compounded by geography, require extraordinary cooperation and flexibility between all components of the investigation,’ said US attorney Timothy Morrison. ’We had that here.’

The indictment alleges that, while still employed at Dow, Huang directed research in China based on trade secrets and sought information about manufacturing facilities in China that would allow him and others to compete in the same market as Dow.

Huang faces up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 (?324,000) fine on each of 12 counts of economic espionage. In addition, he faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of five counts of transportation of stolen property.

A spokesperson for Dow told Chemistry World that the chemical major was ’cooperating fully with federal authorities’ but declined to comment further.

IP in China

As its economic growth continues unabated, China is coming under increasing pressure to improve its approach to intellectual property (IP).

The number of patents granted in China has risen in recent years. In 2009, China was the top producer of chemical patents according to the Chemical Abstract Service, an agency of the American Chemical Society. But since October 2009, the country has been using revised laws intended to boost the quality of patent applications and encourage Chinese firms to obtain international patents.

Meanwhile, foreign companies operating in China remain concerned about the protection of their IP. The EU funds a collaborative project with China focussed on improving the enforcement of IP rights in the country, which provides a free helpdesk service for European companies.

Andrew Turley