09 February 2011
A former research scientist at Dow Chemical Company has been convicted of stealing trade secrets and selling them to Chinese companies. He now could face up to 15 years' imprisonment and a maximum of $500,000 (£300,000) in fines.
On 7 February a US federal jury found 74-year-old Wen Chyu Liu of Houston, Texas guilty of conspiracy to commit trade secret theft and perjury. A sentencing date is not yet scheduled.
Liu came to the US from China as a graduate and joined Dow in 1965, later retiring in 1992. He worked at the company's Plaquemine, Louisiana, facility on various aspects of the development and manufacture of Dow elastomers - including Tyrin chlorinated polyethylene (CPE), which is used in automotive rubber applications and as industrial hoses and electrical cable jackets.
"We will not allow individuals to steal the technology and products that US companies have invested years of time and considerable money to create."
- Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer
Liu was found to have conspired with at least four current and former Dow employees to use information on Tyrin processes to develop and market CPE process design packages in China.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) says that Liu traveled extensively throughout China to market the stolen information and evidence indicates that Liu paid Dow employees for the company's CPE-related material and information. The DOJ says Liu even bribed an employee with $50,000 to provide Dow's process manual and other CPE-related details.
Dow says it refined its CPE development and manufacturing technology over many years at substantial cost and worked to keep those details secret.
Such proprietary information involved, among other things, Dow's high density polyethylene (HDPE) premix and slurry system. The secrets in question also included Dow's chlorination reaction system, with details of it's the reactor's composition.
Dow spokesperson Greg Baldwin welcomes Liu's conviction. 'Dow invests billions in R&D and the technology that results from that investment has tremendous value,' he states.
Assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer agrees. 'American industries thrive on innovation and they invest substantial resources in developing new products and technology,' he says. 'We will not allow individuals to steal the technology and products that US companies have invested years of time and considerable money to create.'
Meanwhile, another Chinese scientist who used to work for Dow Chemical, Kexu Huang, was arrested in September 2010 and charged with economic espionage for stealing trade secrets while employed at Dow AgroSciences from 2003 to 2008.
Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Europe