Who knew that the reason the white cream filling in an Oreo is that particular shade is due to a trade secret that’s held so closely, two men could be sent to jail for more than 20 years for stealing it? A U.S. jury just convicted two businessmen of swiping a technique to make a chemical that whitens many products, including Oreo cream, and selling it to China.
The method for making titanium oxide (TiO2) is used to whiten paper, plastic, paint and yes, cookie cream, and was developed by chemical giant DuPont, reports Quartz.
A Chinese rival had tried to buy the recipe from DuPont — which brings in a tidy $17 billion per year for the company — in the past, but had been refused.
After weeks of testimony, a U.S. federal jury found that a DuPont engineer with 35 years at the company leaked the TiO2 technique to another man who had set up a company in California for the purposes of becoming just like DuPont, so he could provide TiO2 to China. The method was sold to the Chinese company for around $20 million.
Prosecutors allege that the Chinese government had supported the scheme to get the trade secret, as it owned the company that ended up with the formula, saying “the government of the PRC identified as a priority the development of [TiO2] production capabilities” before the espionage took place, and conspired to illegally obtain the method.
The two men were convicted of economic espionage, bankruptcy fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice and face up to 25 years for the most serious charges, reports the AFP.
DuPont said in a statement that it will “continue to take aggressive steps to preserve our technological edge, including cooperating with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world.”
The U.S. government — keeping our cookie cream whitening secrets safe.