Injection molder Shieldmate Robotics Inc. of Itasca, Ill., has found itself in the middle of a trademark infringement case involving two Shieldmate customers that manufacture cellular telephones.
Shieldmate produces plastic housings for Motorola Inc.'s StarTac phone and also molds housings for Qualcomm Inc.'s upcoming ``Q'' phone. Motorola's cellular subscriber sector of Libertyville, Ill., launched StarTac in January 1996, and Qualcomm's subscriber products division of San Diego will market the ``Q'' phone in a few months.
In March, Motorola accused Qualcomm of infringement of a trade dress and design patent, unfair competition and consumer fraud. The ensuing legal maneuvers and public posturing drew Shieldmate into the fray.
``We simply manufacture the housings based on the designs of our customers,'' Shieldmate President Steve Matecki said in a statement, ``but here we find ourselves embroiled in a dispute between these two big companies, both of which have been very good customers of ours.''
Both palm-sized phones are based on the clamshell design common to laptop computers and calculators, but each uses different technology and offers different functions.
On April 24 in San Diego, U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones lifted a temporary restraining order and decided to deny a preliminary injunction to Motorola, clearing the way for Qualcomm to ramp up production of the ``Q'' phone. The infringement case will continue.
Motorola acknowledged that company engineer John Hannon stole a piece of the ``Q'' phone's plastic housing from the Shieldmate premises. Motorola returned the item.
``The court takes a dim view of the actions of Motorola in handling this situation,'' Jones wrote in his ruling.
Shieldmate employs 550 and occupies a 100,000-square-foot facility in Itasca.