“This is theft. And this — stealing the color white — is a very good example of the problem. It’s not a national security secret. It’s about stealing something you can make a buck off of. It’s part of a strategy to profit off what American ingenuity creates.”
John Carlin, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice (National Security Division. Del Quentin Wilber, “Stealing White: How a corporate spy swiped plans for DuPont’s billion-dollar color formula” Bloomberg Businessweek (Feb. 4, 2016)[link]
This story has everything—simple chemistry, industrial espionage, criminal prosecution, and international travel! The details seem criminal—hacking private computers, bribing disgruntled ex-employees, secret safe-deposit boxes, lying to federal agents—but there is something about the basic chemistry which seems like it should not be protectable. So simple: Ti + O + O. But like many things it is more complicated than that.
Further reading: FBI press release: “Walter Liew Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Economic Espionage” (7/11/2014) [link]; “U.S. v. Liew: Opening Statements and FBI Testimony Kick Off Seven-Week Industrial Espionage Trial” Orrick (1/8/2014) [link].