Sri Lanka firm accuses foreign company of stealing technology

By Feizal Samath
Published: Sunday 15 October 2006

haycarb Ltd, a Sri Lankan firm, rated the world's best producer of quality coconut shell-based activated carbon, has accused Sweden's Jacobi Carbons Ltd of stealing its technology. Haycarb alleges Jacobi Carbons is trying to use scarce charcoal needed in activated carbon production, besides 'stealing their personnel' and destroying the local industry.

Referring to Jacobi's move as insidious, Ananda Hettiarachchi, Haycarb's managing director, says, "They have hired many of our former workers to get access to the technology that we have mastered." Documents related to the case filed by Haycarb read "There is reasonable suspicion that Jacobi Carbons is and has been trying to obtain confidential information about Haycarb's operations and use them to compete in the market."

Haycarb also alleges that Jacobi is using local raw material whereas, according to the foreign investment agreement with the state-owned board of investment, all its raw materials should be imported. Local producers of activated carbon complain that the local supply of 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes per year is insufficient for a demand that exceeds 60,000 tonnes.

Meanwhile, in another case, Prime Carbons, another local producer, was successful in moving the Supreme Court to bar Jacobi from purchasing local raw material for two weeks. The case is scheduled for hearing again. Anders Skeini, owner of Jacobi, defends his company saying foreign investors have a right over such purchases.

"The more competition there is for the raw material, prices would go up and the better it will be for the coconut industry," he says.

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