Process Control Corp. infringed on a patent held by HydReclaim Corp. for a method of tying a gravimetric blender into the processing rate of an extruder, according to a Sept. 30 ruling in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
Under the ruling, Atlanta-based Process Control must pay $1.46 million in damages, plus costs and lawyers' fees, to HydReclaim of Fenton, Mich. The judge also granted a permanent injunction prohibiting Process Control from making or selling any products that use the infringing methods.
The judge heard the case in a six-week trial that ended in early July, then deliberated before issuing the verdict.
HydReclaim President Bill Moller invented the device, which was patented in 1992. According to HydReclaim, the patent covers a method and an apparatus that allows continuous gravimetric blenders to determine and match the gravimetric processing rate of an extrusion system.
``We are gratified that the court has completely upheld our position in this important patent case,'' Moller said.
The legal battle started in late 1992 when HydReclaim filed suit in Michigan against Process Control, alleging patent infringement. That suit was dismissed because Process Control had not sold any of the machines in Michigan, Moller said.
In 1993 the two companies held negotiations but could not reach an agreement.
Process Control fired back in late 1993 by filing suit in Atlanta. Process Control President Lionel Romano said it had become clear that HydReclaim would file another suit, so his company decided to use a more active strategy.
Allegations in Process Control's suit included that HydReclaim engaged in antitrust violations and inequitable conduct before the U.S. Patent Office.
HydReclaim countersued, and the judge ruled in favor of HydReclaim in the Sept. 30 decision.
Contacted Oct. 10, Romano said Process Control is deciding whether to appeal.
Romano added that Process Control no longer uses the technology covered in the suit, and has not for many years.
``We will continue to sell gravimetric blenders that closely match the extruder rate,'' Romano said. He said the $1.46 million penalty will have no adverse impact on Process Control's financial condition.
The company, which has no debt, has set up an escrow account to pay the damages, he said.
Customers that have the blenders have the right to use them, and Process Control retains the right to maintain them, Romano said.
Moller and his wife, Carolyn, founded HydReclaim in 1975. In 1996, they sold the company to Harbour Group of St. Louis, which also owns auxiliary equipment supplier AEC Inc. Bill Moller remained with the company as president.