Ethox sues Coke over barrier PET

By Jessica Holbrook

Published: July 18, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Packaging Materials Blow Molding Design
Companies & Associations

GREENVILLE, S.C. (July 18, 7:30 a.m. ET) — Ethox Chemicals LLC is suing Coca-Cola Co. for patent infringement, claiming that the beverage giant stole a molecule, PEM, designed to enhance the barrier properties of PET.

Ethox, a division of chemical manufacturer Piedmont Chemicals Inc., says that its molecule bis(2-phenoxyethyl)terephthalate, or PEM, can be used as a PET additive to reduce permeation, extend shelf-life and allow beer to be sold in plastic bottles.

In a suit filed June 19 with the U.S. District Court in Greenville, S.C., Ethox argues that Coke filed patents for two containers containing the additive, despite knowing that it had no rights to the molecule.

In its patent application, Coke neglected to name the additive’s inventor, Ethox senior research chemist James Tanner, with the “intent of misappropriating the PEM molecule for its own use,” the suit alleges.

According to the filing, Coke approached Ethox and research firm PolyTech Resources LLC in early 2009 about developing and assessing a genus of molecules designed to enhance the barrier properties of plastic bottles.

In August 2009, Tanner determined that commercially synthesizing Coke’s patented additive, bis(2-benzoyloxy)ethyl terephthalate or BPO1, was not economically feasible. In an email to T. Edwin Freeman, a member of Coke’s global innovation and research group, Tanner proposed the recently-developed PEM as an alternative.

Freeman expressed interest in the molecule and asked Ethox to send Coke a high-purity sample for testing. From September to November 2009, the parties corresponded about the material — at Freeman’s request, Ethox sent Coke two samples of PEM and offered estimated per-pound pricing.

“Upon information and belief, after Coca-Cola became aware of the unique and innovative qualities of PEM, Coca-Cola, by its representatives, decided to steal PEM for its own,” Ethox’s attorney wrote in the filing.

On Dec. 2, 2009, Coke filed two patents for polyester containers with enhanced gas-barrier properties. Both patents identified and claimed PEM, according to the suit.

In the suit, Ethox argues that Coke committed fraud and misappropriated trade secrets, among other charges.

The suit also claims that Coke violated the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The two parties attempted to settle the dispute out of court, but were unable to reach an agreement, said Philip Hirschhorn, an attorney for Ethox.

“We’re very surprised that a company like Coca-Cola would engage in the theft of a molecule of one of the companies that it’s working with,” he said. “I’d like to hope it’s an accident, but because of the circumstances it appears it’s not. It appears there’s intent behind it and that’s why a lawsuit had to be brought.”

Greenville-based Ethox is asking the court to require that Coke amend the patent to list Tanner as a co-inventor. The firm also is asking Coke to pay actual and exemplary damages, including the disgorgement of profits made from using PEM, and Ethox is seeking an injunction barring Coke from making, using, selling or importing PEM and other Ethox trade secrets.

Ethox has requested a jury trial.

On July 13, Coke was granted a 31-day extension. The Atlanta-based company has until Aug. 13 to respond to the suit.


Comments

Ethox sues Coke over barrier PET

By Jessica Holbrook

Published: July 18, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Flextronics launches global injection molding, tooling unit

March 26, 2015 4:29 pm ET

Flextronics International Ltd. (Booth S34125) is officially launching Precision Plastics, a global injection tooling and manufacturing unit, as a...    More

Image

Kautex showing off an extrusion blow molding machine at NPE

March 25, 2015 6:00 am ET

After 80 years in business, Kautex Maschinenbau GmbH officials know good old-fashioned word of mouth is often the best way to reach more customers.    More

Image

Fabri-Kal to expand its sustainable packaging with new Idaho plant

March 20, 2015 2:03 pm ET

Thermoformed packaging company Fabri-Kal Corp. plans to tap into Idaho's farming community to expand its sustainable packaging program.    More

Silgan picks Hazelwood, Mo., for plant

March 20, 2015 11:32 am ET

Silgan Plastics has reportedly selected the location of its second new plastics container plant.    More

Image

Advances in barrier injection molding highlighted at NPE

March 17, 2015 10:39 am ET

It's a Holy Grail of plastics: Clear, coinjection molded containers to replace metal cans, the common “tin can” produced by the billions e...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

North America represents about 30 percent of the global consumption of flexible packaging. Annual growth in this region is forecast at 4 percent during the next 5 years.

For more insight on growth opportunities, drivers of growth and the outlook for 2015, download this report.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events