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Patent-lawsuit firm sues window makers

By: Michael Lauzon

August 9, 2013

A New York firm claims that 10 companies are infringing on its patents for window-frame construction.

“We are looking for amicable cases, not just lawsuits,” said Robert Berman, president and CEO of CopyTele Inc., the Melville, N.Y., parent company of the firm launching the lawsuits. Berman said in a telephone interview that subsidiary J-Channel Industries Corp. also will pursue royalties from window companies not named in the lawsuits.

Ten companies face civil suits in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, Tenn., after J-Channel filed its complaint and suits Aug. 7.

J-Channel was created as a subsidiary of CopyTele to pursue alleged window-frame patent infringement, Berman said. Copy¬- Tele’s primary business is “monetization and assertion of patents.”

CopyTele announced the lawsuits in an Aug. 8 news release.

J-Channel holds a patent on window-frame construction technology. The system includes a J-shaped plastic or metal trim for the window that supports soffit or siding. CopyTele said the system allows for easier installation of windows in conventional, manufactured and modular homes. In a patent, the inventor claims the system performs well even when cold temperatures cause siding to contract.

One of the companies named in the lawsuits is Ply Gem Industries Inc., a major vinyl profile extruder based in Cary, N.C., that makes vinyl windows and doors, siding, fencing, trim and moldings, gutters and veneer.

Other companies with window operations that face lawsuits are Atrium Windows and Doors Inc., a Dallas-based fabricator of vinyl and aluminum windows; Elixir Industries Inc., a Mission Viejo, Calif., aluminum window producer; Jeld-Wen Inc., a Woodbridge, Ontario, vinyl window fabricator; Kinro Manufacturing Inc., a Goshen, Ind., vinyl window fabricator; Pella Corp. of Pella, Iowa, which makes vinyl windows; RGF Industries Inc. of Pittsburgh, which distributes vinyl windows; Tafco Corp., a vinyl window producer in Melrose Park, Ill., Lowe’s Cos. Inc. of Mooresville, N.C., a distributor of home-improvement products; and Clayton Homes Inc., a major producer of manufactured and modular homes in Maryville, Tenn.

“Our inventor is a former window manufacturer that was forced out of the business by a consortium of larger, more powerful competitors, who misappropriated his J-Channel technology,” Berman said. “After licensing the technology to a few manufacturers, the original J-Channel patent was invalidated in patent litigation over 10 years ago due to discrepancies in the claim language. Following the litigation, the inventor fortified the claim language to eliminate the discrepancies, and the patent office re-issued the patent.”

According to records filed with the court, the U.S. Patent Office reissued a patent on window-frame technology to its inventor, Leland D. Sayers of Knoxville, Tenn., in February 2008. The patent number is RE 40041. It was a re-issue of patent 5,660,010 from August 1997.

Berman said the re-issue of a stronger patent and a royalty rate has been established based on the previous licenses. The patent infringement has become an industry standard, he added.

Sanders has no official position with J-Channel, but he has a revenue-sharing arrangement with the firm, Berman said. Berman would not disclose the royalty level J-Channel expects from patent infringers. Some companies paid royalties on the original patent but did not pay them after the patent was re-issued, according to Berman.

He claimed Leland’s company, Sealmaster LLC of Knoxville, was forced out of business several years ago by a competitor’s pressure tactics.

Ply Gem is North America’s fifth-largest pipe, profile and extrusion firm, with annual profile sales of about $740 million, including recent acquisitions, according to estimates in Plastics News’ recent survey of the sector. Ply Gem’s total sales in 2012 were $1.12 billion. It runs 11 vinyl extrusion plants in the U.S. and Canada.

Ply Gem officials were unavailable at deadline to comment on the lawsuits.

CopyTele said on its website that its management has more than 30 years of combined experience in patent monetization and assertion and has generated more than $150 million in patent licensing revenues. It now has 66 U.S. patents and 11 patent applications in five technology areas besides window-frame construction. It is a public company listed on the OTC exchange.