Milacron Inc. is seeking help from a federal agency in its attempt to bolster a legal fight to stop competitors from importing machines with control technology that Milacron says interferes with its U.S. patents.
The Cincinnati-based company filed a complaint July 19 with the International Trade Commission, asking for exclusion orders barring imported molding equipment and components from other equipment suppliers that allegedly use Milacron's patented controls.
The complaint affects four foreign-owned injection and blow molding equipment companies that sell in the U.S. market. Milacron also filed federal lawsuits against those companies within the past two months for patent infringement, said Milacron spokesman Tim Neutzling.
Washington-based ITC has 30 days from the filing date to decide whether to start an investigation. The investigation could take as long as nine months, according to published information from ITC.
If the agency's six commissioners find in favor of Milacron, it could ask the Commerce Department to exclude those products from U.S. sale or impose a trade duty with the Customs Service.
The respondents in the complaint are Dr. Boy GmbH; Cannon SpA and its Sandretto Industrie SpA and Automata SpA affiliates; Groupe Sidel; and Zoppas Indusries SpA and its affiliate, Sipa SpA.
All those companies also have U.S. sales arms. Michael Provini, president of Boy Machines Inc. of Exton, Pa., said in a written release that he was confident Boy will not be found to have infringed on Milacron's patent.
``In addition, the Milacron patent may be invalid based upon the existence of such technology prior to Milacron's patent application,'' Provini said. ``It is unfortunate that Milacron feels that it is necessary to compete in the marketplace by the institution of such drastic measures.''
Officials at the three other companies named in the complaint either were unavailable or declined comment.
Going to the ITC for relief could help quicken the pace to a resolution of Milacron's ongoing patent battles, Neutzling said.
``We've been in talks with these companies but have been unable to come to a mutual agreement,'' he said.
An ITC decision could take precedence over the legal disputes. While Milacron would not be granted monetary relief for past patent damages, ITC could make it difficult to import future machines and components that use the control technology in question.
Milacron first filed for U.S. patents for the control technology in 1989 and received its patents two years later, Neutzling said.
``We were pretty early in the personal computer game, and we just want to protect our patents,'' he said.