A British court has split its verdict in a polyethylene technology dispute between BP Chemicals Ltd. and Union Carbide Corp.
The Court of Appeal of England ruled Nov. 26 that BP's high-productivity process violated Carbide's patent for condensing- mode technology used in its Unipol PE process, which increases PE reactor performance.
BP has used its process to produce PE in Grangemouth, Scotland, since 1996. The court also ruled an earlier BP process had violated the Carbide patent, which was issued in 1989.
A trial to determine damages is expected in early 2000.
The decision ``affirms beyond a doubt the uniqueness of Union Carbide's condensing-mode technology,'' Carbide Unipol systems Vice President Roger Staub said in a news release.
But the court also ruled that Carbide's patent only covers gas-assist PE production, not a similar liquid-only method that BP has developed.
``We're disappointed, but we can change the [Grangemouth] plant to the liquid-only technology with a minimal effect on our customers,'' BP spokeswoman Angela Edwards said in a Dec. 8 telephone interview from London.
If BP changes the Grangemouth plant to liquid-only PE production, it would be the firm's first commercial use of the technology.
Edwards said BP is considering an appeal of the court's decision.
Carbide's initial lawsuit, filed in 1994, only addressed gas-assist technology. BP asked the court to rule on liquid-only technology when it filed a countersuit against Carbide in 1995.
``We don't see any reason why BP can't continue to operate the plant without using [gas-assist] technology,'' Carbide spokeswoman Ivana Tibbetts said.
Carbide of Danbury, Conn., is one of North America's largest PE makers. Its Unipol technology is licensed worldwide and accounts for more than 22 billion pounds of annual PE production.
BP of London is a leading European PE maker with about 1.5 billion pounds of annual capacity.