Firm brings patent suit against nine stretch film producers

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MEMPHIS, TENN. (Updated Feb. 23, 4:05 p.m. ET) — A technology licensing firm has filed a lawsuit against nine plastic film producers – including some of the industry’s biggest names - claiming that they are violating a patent on stretch cling film.

Multilayer Stretch Cling Film Holdings Inc. filed six lawsuits against those nine firms on Feb. 10 in U.S. District Court in Memphis, Tenn. Multilayer is a Wilmington, Del.-based firm that bought the patent from global stretch film processor Manuli Stretch Film Group SpA of Milan, Italy.

The nine firms named in the lawsuit are Alpha Industries Inc., Berry Plastics Corp., Inteplast Group Ltd., AmTopp Corp., Malpack Ltd., Alliance Plastics LLC, Intertape Polymer Group Inc., AEP Industries Inc. and Sigma Stretch Film. Berry, Sigma, Inteplast and AEP rank among North America’s 10 largest film and sheet makers, according to a recent Plastics News ranking. Intertape is in the top 25.

AmTopp is a unit of Inteplast. Alpha and Sigma both are owned by Sigma Plastics Group. Alliance resells film for Malpack, but does not make its own film.

Multilayer is seeking unspecified past damages, as well as forward licensing fees from those nine firms, according to attorney Melissa Hunter Smith. Hunter Smith is with the Nashville, Tenn.-based law firm of Stites & Harbison PLLC, which is representing Multilayer.

If the defendant firms don’t agree to license the patent technology, Multilayer will seek permanent injunctions preventing them from making film based on the patent, Hunter Smith said in a Feb. 22 phone interview.

“We’re not sure how much film has been made using this technology, but we believe it’s a lot,” she added.

Paragon Films Inc. already has agreed to license the technology. The patent covers stretch cling films of seven or more layers. The patented films claim to be stronger and more versatile than previous films, and also claim to provide economic and environmental benefits because they can be made at a lower cost per square foot.

Officials with Sigma in Lyndhurst, N.J.; and with Intertape in Montreal declined to comment on the case. Officials at AEP, Berry, Malpack, Alliance and Inteplast could not be reached for comment.

No court dates have been set in the case. In 2010, Multilayer and Stites & Harbison won a similar lawsuit against Pinnacle Films Inc. That suit resulted in a settlement of more than $2 million, which was paid by Pinnacle’s bankruptcy estate. The firm filed for bankruptcy shortly before the case was to go to trial. Inteplast – one of the firms named in the new lawsuits - bought Pinnacle’s assets as part of that bankruptcy.

Manuli had acquired the patent in 2007 when it bought Quintec Films Group. Quintec originally had filed the suit against Pinnacle in 2006. Manuli recently stopped film production at its North American plant in Shelbyville, Tenn., opting instead to import products from other Manuli plants to supply U.S. customers.

The suits are the first patent infringement cases filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee since its selection for the federal Patent Pilot Program. That program is designed to enhance expertise in patent cases among U.S. district judges.