CORRECTED (OFFICIAL)-Lanxess chemical reactor data theft hearing set for June

(Court spokeswoman corrects second date in second paragraph to July 5 from Aug. 3)

FRANKFURT, Feb 4 (Reuters) - A court in Germany will initiate data theft proceedings in June to hear a case about a former employee at German chemicals maker Lanxess who is accused of stealing trade secrets with the aim of setting up a copycat chemical reactor in China.

Preliminary hearings will take place on June 26 and July 5, a spokeswoman for the Cologne court said on Monday.

Reuters exclusively reported in November that prosecutors were pressing criminal charges against two Chinese-born German nationals in a case that underscored concerns about industrial espionage in Europe’s largest manufacturing nation.

Lanxess fired the chemical engineer when it discovered the data theft, prosecutors said in November.

His associate received the trade secrets via email and is accused of seeking to commercially exploit them in China. If convicted, the two face up to four years in prison, prosecutors said at the time.

Lanxess, which initially reported the case to the police, said in November the former employee abused a position of trust and access to confidential business information about an innovative product and tried to exploit it commercially. (Reporting by Patricia Weiss and Ludwig Burger; editing by Jason Neely)