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Fourth Circuit Stays 20-Year Ban on Kevlar Competitor

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 25, 2012 1:21 PM

Less than a month after a district court ordered South Korea’s Kolon to stop manufacturing and selling Heracron (a Kevlar competitor), the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the company can resume production while it appeals the judgment, Reuters reports.

Last year, a jury found last year that the South Korean manufacturer stole 149 trade secrets relating to the Kevlar fiber, and awarded Kevlar-manufacturer DuPont more than $919 million in damages. In August, District Judge Robert Payne barred Kolon from selling products made with its para-aramid fiber for 20 years, according to Bloomberg.

Kevlar is a high-strength para-aramid fiber used in armor, military helmets, tires and fiber-optic cables. DuPont sued Kolon in February 2009, claiming that the South Korean manufacturer misused DuPont's proprietary information about Kevlar, which it obtained from Michael Mitchell, a former DuPont employee.

(Mitchell, a 24-year DuPont veteran, left the company in 2006. In 2010, Mitchell pleaded guilty to theft of trade secrets, reports Reuters.)

A jury slapped Kolon with the almost-billion-dollar verdict in 2011, and Kolon immediately appealed. In its request to the appellate court for a stay, the company claims that there were errors at trial, weaknesses in DuPont's case, and a lack of evidence that Kolon's activities caused DuPont to lose sales or profit.

Fourth Circuit Judges Dennis Shedd and Andre Davis voted to stay the injunction against Kolon, while Judge Albert Diaz voted against the stay.

"This is not a decision on the merits of the case, only a ruling to keep the status quo during the appeal," DuPont said in a statement on Monday, emphasizing that the stay does not affect the nine-figure judgment.

The appellate court has not announced when it will hear Kolon's appeal.

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