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US court voids $920M DuPont award in Kevlar case

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A federal appeals court on Thursday threw out a $919.9 million jury verdict that had favored DuPont in a case over the alleged theft of trade secrets for a fiber used to make Kevlar bulletproof vests.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia said the verdict against South Korea's Kolon Industries Inc must be voided because the trial judge improperly excluded relevant evidence that was material to Kolon's defense.

A Richmond jury had awarded the damages in September 2011, after finding that Kolon willfully and maliciously stole 149 DuPont trade secrets in connection with that company's Kevlar para-aramid fiber. The fiber is also used to make tires and fiber-optic cables, in addition to body armor.

In a separate decision, the 4th Circuit upheld the dismissal of Kolon's countersuit accusing DuPont of antitrust violations for trying to monopolize the U.S. market for para-aramid fiber.

DuPont was not immediately available for comment.

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Jeff Randall, a partner at Paul Hastings representing Kolon, said that company is pleased at the overturning of the jury award. "The new trial should allow Kolon to present strong evidence in support of its defenses," he said.

DuPont began the litigation in February 2009, claiming that Michael Mitchell, a 24-year DuPont veteran, had taken proprietary information about Kevlar when he left in 2006 to start his own fiber business, and later shared it with Kolon.

Meanwhile, Kolon accused DuPont of violating the Sherman antitrust law by using multi-year supply contracts that required large customers to buy 80 percent to 100 percent of their para-aramid fibers from the company.

The cases in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co v. Kolon Industries Inc, No. 12-2070; and Kolon Industries Inc v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co, No. 12-1587.

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