Protecting DuPont Trade Secrets

DuPont News, April 23, 2012
Charles T. Welsh Jr. Information Security Excellence Award winners.
(left to right) Basil Zhao, lead lawyer supporting Pioneer; Zhang Aiguo, Welsh recipient; and Ding Feng, Welsh recipient; and Tom Sager. The third team member, Yang Fuquan, has left the company and was unable to attend the ceremony.


The Pioneer China Trade Secrets Victory Team recently was presented with the 22nd annual Charles T. Welsh Jr. Information Security Excellence Award at a ceremony in Beijing, China. The award recognizes the team that has demonstrated excellence in accomplishments that have made the most significant advancements in the area of Information Security in the past year.

The award is named in honor of Charles T. Welsh Jr., who pioneered the DuPont Proprietary Information Protection program during its formative years in the 1960s until his retirement in 1991.

The members of the winning team were Yang Fuquan (Pioneer Legal); Zhang Aiguo (Pioneer Legal); and Ding Feng (GuangDu Law Firm). Tom Sager, DuPont senior vice president and general counsel, presented the award to the winning team and noted how important this trade secret victory was for Pioneer business and for the Legal team.

"Developing the strategy to bring the first successful trade secret case for the Chinese seed industry proves how teamwork and collaboration between the business and Legal can achieve great results,” Tom said. “We are truly proud of the team's accomplishments."

The Pioneer China Trade Secrets Victory Team successfully prosecuted the first trade secrets case in the history of the Chinese seed industry. The case against Jiuquan Tongying Seed Company confirmed that Pioneer can use trade secret protections to defend its seed varieties against counterfeiting and theft. The team did exceptional work by protecting DuPont information in a challenging developing market, while breaking new legal ground through a historic precedent for the Chinese seed industry.

By deciding to set a seed industry trade secrets precedent, the team broke with the traditional approach to seed counterfeiting. Instead of waiting for Plant Variety Protections and then filing cases on that legal basis, our legal team took a creative and new approach, finding new ways to protect DuPont information.

To explain how intellectual property should relate to seeds, our legal team made innovative use of examples from other industries. One key example came from the publishing industry. When a person buys a book, he or she can read and learn from it, but cannot photocopy and sell it. Our team argued the same should be true of seeds. While anyone can buy a bag of seed, people should not be allowed to breed copies of that seed and sell it. This example helped the Jilin City Administration of Industry and Commerce conceptualize the precedent they were going to set.

Pioneer now has a way to deter counterfeiting of its seed varieties in China. When other counterfeiters copy DuPont’s seed products in China, our legal teams now can approach the local government with the precedent set in this case. This makes the genetic information in Pioneer seeds more secure, which not only benefits Pioneer but also the Chinese seed industry, by promoting an orderly marketplace where all companies pursue their own innovations instead of stealing from others. Most importantly, the victory in this case benefits the 745 million Chinese farmers who rely on high-quality genetics for their income and are often victims of seed counterfeiting.

DuPont’s victory in this case shows that critical information can be protected even in the most challenging of developing markets. The key enabling factor is teams that are willing to innovate and do pioneering work in their fields.