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Avery Dennison wins $40 million in Four Pillars Enterprises case

US-based Avery Dennison Corp. was awarded at least US$ 40 million in damages in a civil suit accusing a competitor of misappropriating trade secrets.
The jury verdict in the US District Court in Clev…

US-based Avery Dennison Corp. was awarded at least US$ 40 million in damages in a civil suit accusing a competitor of misappropriating trade secrets. The jury verdict in the US District Court in Cleveland follows a US$ 5 million criminal fine levied last month against Four Pillars Enterprises Ltd., Taipei, Taiwan, stemming from a criminal trial that in April 1999 found Four Pillars guilty of economic espionage. It was the first case tried under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act, which Congress passed to protect US companies from thefts by foreign busineses and governments. The civil award “reaffirms the guilty verdicts and sentence handed down” in the earlier trial, Avery Dennison General Counsel Robert G. van Schoonenberg said in a written statement. However, Nancy Luque, an attorney for Four Pillars, noted that in the criminal trial, the company had been found not guilty of certain counts that Avery Dennison successfully pursued in the civil trial. She also cited a statement by the judge in the earlier trial that the criminal case had “become a tool for Avery to seek vengeance instead of the pursuit of justice.” Ms. Luque called the civil award “a minor setback,” and added that Four Pillars plans to appeal. An appeal of the earlier fine is pending, she added. In the criminal trial, law-enforcement authorities alleged that an Avery Dennison employee in Ohio had given Four Pillars secrets pertaining to adhesives used in such products as self-stick postage stamps and battery labels. Avery Dennison spokesman Charlie Coleman said the judge who presided over the civil case has the option of increasing the award, which comprises US$ 30 million in punitive damages and US$ 10 million in compensatory damages. The civil suit named as defendants Pin Yen Yang, Four Pillars“ former chief executive, and Victor Lee, a former Avery Dennison research scientist who in the criminal trial testified that he provided Four Pillars with confidential information until he was caught in 1997. Mr. Lee earlier pleaded guilty to wire fraud and began cooperating with the FBI and his former employer in constructing the criminal case. That eventually included a sting operation in which Mr. Yang was arrested at a Cleveland Airport trying to leave the US with Avery Dennison documents.

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