A breach of global standards

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A breach of global standards

A U.S. federal court order to ban the manufacturing and sales of synthetic fiber used in bulletproof armor or ultraresistant tires and cables by the country’s Kolon Industries is raising concern about a lack of justice against a foreign competitor to protect an American company. The same jury in Richmond, Virginia, ordered Kolon to pay its U.S. rival DuPont $919.9 million in damages for stealing trade secrets related to the latter’s trademarked synthetic Kevlar. Kolon has been mass-producing a similar ultrastrength para-aramid fiber called Heracron from 2005, which ranks behind DuPont’s product and Japan’s version of Twaron.

A local court barring a foreign enterprise from “manufacturing, using, marketing, selling, distributing and offering sale or soliciting customers for any para-aramid product” for a period of 20 years is clearly an abuse of authority. Richmond serves as the manufacturing base for the plaintiff’s aramid fiber. As such, suspicion has circulated that the local jury and judge reached their verdict in response to the burden of an industrial and economic downturn, not to mention a certain sense of patriotism and trade protectionism.

Judge Robert Payne, who presided over the trial, also formerly served as a lawyer for 21 years at a firm that represented DuPont, meaning he is hardly in a position to deliver an unbiased legal interpretation of the case. Meanwhile, the jury, which consisted of homemakers and other nonprofessionals, was rebuked during the trial for dozing off.

Another nagging point is the question of how DuPont was able to win its case based on the accusation that information concerning its aramid technology was conveyed to Kolon via a former employee, who was hired by the Korean company in 2008, two years after questionable fiber was already being commercialized in conjunction with the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

The court accepted DuPont’s petition demanding that Kolon compensate it for stealing 30 years of its research and marketing work. Even considering U.S. courts’ penchant for handing out costly punitive penalties to foreign companies for industrial damages, demanding reparation equivalent to 300 times the value of Kolon’s exports to the U.S. is outrageous.

Kolon plans to appeal, but it should have the backing of the Korean government.

In a related case, 55 percent of the U.S. public, according to a recent poll, disagreed with Apple’s overwhelming victory over Samsung Electronics recently in a patent-infringement lawsuit linked to smartphone technology in a U.S. court. Washington must rein in such reckless rulings that seem bent on eliminating foreign competitors. The government should strongly protest those decisions that breach global standards on fair trade, and consider taking them to the World Trade Organization.


     미국 버지니아주 동부법원이 코오롱에 대해 1조원이 넘는 배상 판결을 내린 데 이어 아라미드 섬유 소재 ‘헤라크론’의 전세계 생산 및 판매를 향후 20년간 금지한 것이 월권 판결 논란을 부르고 있다. 미국의 일개 지방 법원이 전세계 범위의 생산·판매까지 금지시킨 것은 관할권을 벗어난 자의적 판결 논란에서 자유로울 수 없다. 여기에다 버지니아 리치먼드는 원고인 듀폰의 최대 사업장이며, 아라미드 섬유의 생산 거점이다. 미국의 경제난과 애국주의·보호무역주의 등이 버무려져 상궤를 벗어난 ‘동네 판결’이 나온 게 아닌지 의문을 떨칠 수 없다.
   해당 재판장이 아라미드 섬유 소송에 관여한 법률회사에 21년 동안 변호사로 재직했던 대목도 개운치 않은 뒷맛을 남긴다. ‘재판 도중 자주 졸았다’는 이유 등으로 쫓겨나기도 한 비(非)전문적 배심원단은 판결의 공정성에 의문을 던진다. 이미 카이스트에서 독자 개발한 특허로 2006년부터 양산한 ‘헤라크론’을, 2008년 듀폰 퇴직자를 컨설턴트로 채용했다는 이유로 “영업 비밀 침해”라 판정한 것은 시간의 흐름을 잘못 짚은 게 아닌지 의심쩍다. 또한 미 법원은 지난 30년간의 아라미드 연구개발·마케팅 비용을 다 물어내라는 듀폰의 청구를 일방적으로 받아들였다. 아무리 미 법원이 징벌적 배상을 자주 물린다고 해도, 실제 손해액 산정은 외면한 채 그 동안 대미수출액의 300배가 넘는 배상금을 물린 것은 도를 넘는 처사다.
   이번 판결은 코오롱이라는 일개 회사에 그치는 사안이 아니다. 앞으로 미 동네 법원의 편파 판결로 얼마나 많은 희생양이 나올지 모른다. 코오롱이 즉각 항소 입장을 밝혔지만, 우리 정부도 손 놓고 지켜볼 때가 아니다. 최근 미 국민들 조차 55%가 ‘삼성전자-애플’의 특허 판정에 ‘동의하지 않는다’고 할 정도다. 미국이 ‘동네 판결’로 외국 경쟁기업을 죽이는 잘못된 관행에 제동을 걸어야 한다. 정부는 글로벌 스탠더드에 현격히 어긋난 판결에 대해 외교적 차원에서 강력 항의하고, 세계무역기구(WTO)에 제소하는 방안까지 진지하게 검토해볼 필요가 있다.

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