E.I. DuPont deNemours & Co. v. Christopher, 431 F.2d 1012 (5 Cir. 1970)
Apr 28, 2015 by Vahid Dejwakh

Facts and Procedural History

Defendants fly a plane over & take pictures of the DuPont methanol plant that is under construction--pictures they intend to sell to a third party. The aerial pictures reveal critical parts of the plant construction, which revealed the secrets of how to construct the plan.


Did DuPont need to have built a roof over the construction of the plant in order for the methanol plant to constitute a trade secret?

Holding and Dissent(s)

Held in favor of DuPont: flying a plane over their plant does constitute espionage, the kind that is an improper means
i. It would be too costly and unreasonable to require them to build a roof
ii. DuPont spent a lot to develop the technology

Analysis and Discussion

It’s ok to discover T.S. through reverse engineering
1. Source of defendant’s knowledge is important for determining whether there's a T.S. violation → reverse engineering is more like defendant’s own efforts to independently come up with the T.S., whereas hiring an airplane to take pictures does not advance knowledge

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