Industrial Espionage Trial Underway

Federal prosecutors told jurors Wednesday that an engineer and business owner conspired to steal DuPont Co.’s manufacturing secrets for the process of making titanium dioxide in order to build a manufacturing plant in China.

Walter Liew, 56, a U.S. citizen born in Malaysia, faces charges of conspiracy and attempted economic espionage for allegedly obtaining the trade secrets from a former DuPont employee.

In opening statements, Liew’s defense lawyers maintain that the information in production of titanium oxide, a white pigment used in paper and plastics, has been publicly disclosed over the years.  They argue Liew did nothing illegal and was engaged in an effort to start a factory in China to make the same material.

Two other DuPont employees and Liew’s wife were charged in the case.  One former DuPont employee pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors.  Liew’s wife will be tried separately after arguing successfully that she may need Liew to testify in her defense.

Liew operated USA Performance Technology Inc. and received a contract from China’s Pangang Group Co. to build a titanium dioxide plant in Chongqing.  Prosecutors say he wanted to use the manufacturing process invented by DuPont in the 1940s.

Pangang was also charged in the indictment.  But U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White has said the government failed to meet legal standards for summoning the company to face trial.

Liew allegedly gained access to the manufacturing process from ex-DuPont employees.  He and one former DuPont employee are on trial.  The estimate is the trial will last seven weeks.

One expert who may be a controversial witness called to testify for the government is the GeorgetownUniversityLawCenter professor James Feinerman, whose report about his proposed testimony including material copied from the Wikipedia website.  White called the report “extremely troubling.”

He ordered that Feinerman, if he testifies he may not express opinion that China encourages intellectual property theft.  Nor would he allow the government to substitute Feinerman for a new expert.

Case:  U.S. v. Liew, No. 11-cr-573JS

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