Bob Fernandez of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that scientist Dr. Manhua Mandy Lin has taken a significant step in clearing her name of trade secret allegations, well, at least in the opinion of one government employee. Lin, who has been engaged in a protracted legal battle with her former employer, materials innovator Rohm & Haas Co., recently received word from a Department of Energy chemist, Charles Russomanno, of his determination that she did not steal trade secrets to develop her innovative procedure for the production of methacrylic acid. Despite this apparent victory, it does little to advance Lin’s interests in her pending litigation.

In November 1999, Lin resigned from her position with Rohm & Haas pursuant to a settlement agreement reached as a result of allegations that she was the victim of unlawful discrimination while at the company. Following her departure from Rohm & Haas, among other legal disputes that have ensued, the company alleged that Lin misappropriated its trade secrets in engaging in her independent research for her company EverNu Technology L.L.C. Montgomery County Court Judge Bernard A. Moore has refused to order an independent scientific assessment in the case and has imposed daily fines of $200 on Lin for her failure to release her research to Rohm & Haas. In total, she has already been penalized more than $200,000.

Worried that her business was in jeopardy due to Rohm & Haas’s suggestion that the Department of Energy was in the process of investigating Lin, she sent confidential court submissions to the Department of Energy in the hopes of avoiding agency action. Although Russomanno’s review of the documents resulted in a finding that Lin did not misappropriate any trade secrets, it remains to be seen whether this conclusion will educe any measurable benefit to Lin in the courtroom. Presumably, Russomanno’s determination will either help spur settlement negotiations or, ultimately, just represent another hollow victory in the course of this seemingly never ending litigation.