Cinpres Gas Injection Ltd. and Melea Ltd. are battling in courts in Germany and England over their dueling technologies for gas-assisted injection molding - Cinpres' plastic expulsion process vs. Melea's overflow wells.
The cases involve European patent issues. Melea, the Gilbraltar firm affiliated with Michael Ladney's Gain Technologies Inc. in January filed a patent infringement complaint against rival Cinpres in Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany.
According to Cinpres, the complaint stemmed from the Cinpres booth at the K 2001 show in Dusseldorf, where Cinpres demonstrated the plastic expulsion process, dubbed PEP. Cinpres filed its response in the German case this month. A hearing is scheduled in May.
Officials of Gain, the Sterling Heights, Mich., company that markets the Melea patents, had no immediate comment.
Cinpres denies that PEP infringes on the overflow patent, one of 40 Melea-owned patents covering gas-assisted molding. Overflow also is known as the spillover process.
Cinpres Chairman Terry Pearson said Melea's infringement filing in Germany was in response to an earlier Cinpres court action in Patents County Court in London. Cinpres has asked the court to declare that PEP does not infringe on overflow. Cinpres promotes PEP as an alternative to overflow.
In late February, Cinpres went a step further in the Dusseldorf case: Cinpres is claiming it has ownership of the overflow invention upon which the Melea European patent is based, Pearson said. Cinpres, based in Middlewich, England, long has made a prior-art argument, contending it already was using its own version of overflow wells several years before the Melea patents were issued.
In 1997, Gain won a long back-and-forth court battle on that issue, and retained ownership of the European overflow patent. However, Pearson maintains the courts did establish then that Cinpres used the technique first. He said Cinpres lost its claim for ownership on procedural reasons.
The war pitting Melea/overflow against Cinpres/PEP now is being waged on two continents. The patents are the subject of a high-profile U.S. lawsuit involving Steelcase Inc. and its award-winning Cachet chair. On Feb. 11, Melea and Plastic Molded Technologies Inc., doing business as Gain, sued Steelcase for patent infringement in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Steelcase of Grand Rapids, Mich., is a Cinpres licensee.
Overflow wells are used to catch plastic material forced out by the gas during molding.