American Chemistry MattersA Blog of the American Chemistry Council

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Without chemical trade secrets, innovation in America could become a spy game

When Procter & Gamble set out to develop a new detergent that would allow consumers to wash their clothes effectively in cold water, they turned to a unique, innovative blend of chemistries. But without a regulatory framework that protects the legitimate intellectual property of the domestic chemical industry, the product you know and use today, Tide Coldwater, may never have reached the U.S. marketplace.

That’s because innovation in American chemistry depends on trade secret protection for confidential chemical identities.

Chemical manufacturers need to know that the millions of dollars they spend on R&D to create the products that improve our everyday lives will not be jeopardized by free, unfettered access to legitimate trade secrets before the product even hits the marketplace. Without these protections, companies would lose their competitive edge, and with it, virtually all incentive to be the first to bring a new product to market.

Public disclosure of this information would have competitors at home and abroad preying on millions of dollars of research and development, and the resulting chemical identities, placed at their disposal.

It’s happening already. A recent report by the Wall Street Journal describes a decade-long plot in which an Orlando, FL couple attempted to steal DuPont corporate secrets and sell them to a Chinese government-owned company. We cannot let innovation in America become a spy game.

Unfortunately, the EPA appears not to have considered this scenario before it proposed a new rule that would unnecessarily require chemical manufacturers to disclose confidential chemical identities in health and safety studies.

The fact is, assigning a structurally-specific generic name to a chemical often enables the public to access a large body of scientific information on similarly structured chemicals, including any related hazards, without having to disclose the valuable chemical identity in the process. Furthermore, a search on a generic name will, in many cases, draw from a more extensive and broadly available body of health and safety information already compiled on substances with similar properties.

EPA can still forge the right path forward. Today, BNA News released a white paper in which ACC proposed a series of steps by which EPA could meet its health and safety objectives while not putting U.S. competitiveness, jobs and economic stability at risk. We look forward to working with EPA on finding common ground to resolve this critical regulatory issue.

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