LONDON — After back-and-forth rulings in London, Gain Technologies Inc. has won a court victory against rival Cinpres Ltd. over a patent covering the use of overflow wells in gas-assisted injection molding.
On July 23, the three-judge panel of the United Kingdom Court of Civil Appeals ruled in favor of Gain Technologies of Sterling Heights, Mich. The United Kingdom is home turf for Cinpres of Tamworth, England.
According to the ruling, Cinpres failed to prove that gas-assisted molding pioneer Jim Hendry, who originally worked for Cinpres, took knowledge of the overflow well technology with him when he left to work for Gain.
Gain said the court ruled that Hendry invented the overflow well technique in 1987 in connection with his work at Gain. Hendry had worked as a consultant for Cinpres between 1982 and 1985, and Cinpres began using overflow wells in 1985.
The London appeals court ruling apparently ends a 6-year legal battle, with Gain and its owner, Michael Ladney, declared the winner. Cinpres launched the battle in 1991, filing a protest with the U.K. Patent Office to block approval of a European counterpart to a U.S. patent Gain holds on overflow wells. Hendry assigned the patent to Gain.
In May 1996 a Patent Office hearing officer had ruled against Cinpres, saying Cinpres failed to prove its claims involving Hendry's knowledge of overflow wells. Cinpres appealed to the Patent Court, which ruled in favor of Cinpres in December.
But then Gain appealed, taking the case to the Court of Civil Appeals, which overturned the Patent Office's decision, declaring Ladney the winner.
Steve Jordan, Cinpres managing director, was not available for comment. However, a press report in a U.K. publication quoted Jordan as saying Cinpres may appeal to the House of Lords.
Overflow wells are used to catch plastic material forced out during gas-assisted injection molding, a process that makes hollow parts by injecting gas into the melt stream in the mold.
Both companies continued a practice of dueling press releases after the July 23 ruling.
Gain said the overflow well technique ``is in many cases necessary to gas molding of large or complex geometry parts.''
Cinpres issued its own news release that said: ``Overflow wells were not an important technical innovation.''
Steve Jordan, Cinpres managing director, said the U.K. Patent Office still has not indicated whether overflow well technology is even patentable. If it is, Jordan said in the news release, Cinpres will produce evidence of prior art and try to block a Gain patent in Europe.
But Gain gave a warning in its own release: ``Cinpres has placed its equipment users and technology licensees at risk by encouraging use of the overflow well technology on the strength of its boasts that it would prevail in its claim of rights to the patent. Cinpres has now failed.''