MONOPOLY: Nylon for Everybody

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For seven years, the Justice Department's cartel-busting case against Wilmington's Du Pont and Britain's Imperial Chemical Industries has dragged through U.S. courts. In the interim both companies, charged with dividing up the world's chemical market and restricting production, have voluntarily taken steps to make the charges obsolete. Against the charge that I.C.I, does not compete with Du Pont in the U.S., the British company bought up Providence's Arnold Hoffman & Co., Inc., last year sold $8,200,000 worth of goods in the U.S. Du Pont, accused of monopolizing nylon, voluntarily turned over its nylon processes to Chemstrand, a jointly owned subsidiary of its rivals, Monsanto and American Viscose.

Nevertheless, in Manhattan's federal court last week, Judge Sylvester Ryan ruled that none of this was sufficient. In an opinion outlining the decree which he will shortly issue, Judge Ryan said that Du Pont and I.C.I., which he had already found guilty of violating anti-trust laws, must divest themselves of three of their five jointly owned companies in Canada and South America, with total assets of $400 million. Moreover, he found that Du Pont, as a penalty for having "misused" its patents on nylon, will have to make them available to all comers for a reasonable royalty. The misuse, said Judge Ryan, lay in Du Pont's failing to export nylon to the British market, thus giving I.C.I.'s British licensee, Courtauld's, a monopoly. By so doing, the court found, Du Pont failed to sell as much goods abroad as it might have done, and to that extent damaged the nation's export trade. In effect, it was not punishing Du Pont for getting too big a share of the world market, but for not getting enough. Licensing others to make nylon, it added, would undoubtedly start them exporting it, and force Du Pont to do so as well.

The Department of Justice's trustbusters wanted Judge Ryan to go further in punishment, open up all of Du Font's future patents. This Judge Ryan sternly refused to do. He termed the demand itself unprecedented in law, and added that it "would be punitive as well as destructive of that driving incentive which has accounted for much of the remarkable development of the chemical industry." Noting that Du Pont had spent a total of $196.8 million to bring nylon from test tube to mass production, he observed that it is also spending $45 million a year on research. Said he: "Its past development of new products and processes has done much to promote our national economy and to meet the needs and requirements of national defense."