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Intellectual Property

Lanxess is victim of industrial secrets theft

German firm was targeted on its home turf

by Marc S. Reisch
February 6, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 6

A photo of Lanxess's headquarters tower in Cologne, Germany.
Credit: Lanxess
An employee on Lanxess's home turf in Germany stole proprietary data.

A court in Germany will soon begin criminal proceedings against a former Lanxess chemical engineer for stealing trade secrets and emailing them to an associate in China.

According to press reports, the two planned to use the stolen plans to build a reactor in China, where they would make an unidentified chemical to compete against an identical Lanxess offering.

Lanxess won’t provide details on the stolen information or the employee and accomplice accused in the theft. “A group of people of Chinese origin stole company and trade secrets about an innovative product that had not yet achieved a high turnover and tried to exploit it commercially,” the firm says in a statement.

The main perpetrator, according to Lanxess, is a former employee “who abused a position of trust” several years ago. Lanxess says it has not suffered any damage to its business because of the theft.

According to the news service Reuters, a German labor court in Dusseldorf convicted the former employee of civil theft charges and two years ago ordered the person to pay Lanxess about $200,000.

Other chemical and pharmaceutical firms also have had to confront employee theft of intellectual property. In January, Taiwan police arrested a BASF staffer and five former employees for stealing know-how to make high-purity electronic chemicals and selling it to a Chinese firm. But Lanxess was victimized on its home turf in Germany, where such occurrences are rare.

Past victims include Dow Chemical, DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline, Ineos, and WuXi AppTech.


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