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October 6, 2009

Federal Complaint Targets DuPont Researcher

Intellectual Property: Hong Meng is hit with second suit charging he stole trade secrets

Marc Reisch

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OLED LEADERSHIP Meng worked on next-generation display technology before DuPont fired him.

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Federal authorities have filed a one-count criminal complaint in federal court against fired DuPont researcher Hong Meng for improperly accessing a protected computer belonging to DuPont. If tried and convicted, Meng faces a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of up to $250,000 according to David C. Weiss, U.S. attorney for the District of Delaware.

Meng, a 43-year-old chemist and conductive polymer expert, was arrested on Oct 2. After an appearance before a federal judge in Delaware district court, he was freed without bail but ordered to establish a permanent residence in Delaware by Oct. 16. Until then he must report in daily to the court. After Oct. 16, he will be restricted to his home and subject to electronic monitoring.

The complaint comes on top of a civil suit DuPont filed in late August that charged Meng had breached his employment contract and stole trade secrets pertaining to the design of next-generation computer and television displays. He is accused of planning to share them with a new employer, Peking University (C&EN, Sept. 28, page 47).  DuPont fired Meng on Aug. 21.

The federal complaint alleges that Meng, whose work involved the development of low-cost organic light-emitting diode (OLED) materials, downloaded 595 documents from his work-issued laptop computer to an external storage device even though the company prohibited him from doing so. In addition, the complaint says Meng allowed DuPont to examine his personal computer, which was found to contain 543 proprietary DuPont files.

Most of the documents were confidential modeling reports that "are instrumental in measuring the viability of OLED materials," according to the complaint. Meng also downloaded a document "that contained a specific chemical procedure that DuPont has invented to improve the stability, performance, and purity levels of organic electronic materials."

A DuPont spokesman says the firm supports the actions taken by law enforcement officials against Meng. He adds that "DuPont is committed to protecting the integrity of its proprietary science and technology."

Normally, federal prosecutors must file an indictment 30 days after the initial complaint. However, the judge supervising the case approved a request by both the U.S. attorney and Meng's lawyer to postpone the indictment until Jan. 5, 2010, suggesting the parties could use the time to work out a deal.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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