Michael Ladney and Gain Technologies Inc. have fired another gas-assisted broadside - this time suing DaimlerChrysler Corp., molder Doveport Systems LLC and Alliance Gas Systems Inc. over a Dodge Durango handle assembly.
The patent infringement lawsuit was filed Feb. 13 in U.S. District Court in Detroit by Gain-affiliated companies Melea Ltd. and Plastic Molded Technologies Inc. Melea is a Gibraltar firm that owns about 40 patents covering gas-assisted injection molding, a process that uses gas to make hollow plastic parts. Gain markets the Melea patents.
Plastic Molded Technologies does business as Gain Technologies, in Sterling Heights, Mich.
Melea and PMT contend the Durango handle violates two Melea patents, one covering the use of overflow wells to get excess resin out of the mold. The other patent involves the operation of the gas unit itself, including the valve assembly. They ask for unspecified damages and a permanent injunction blocking Alliance, Doveport and DaimlerChrysler from infringing.
This marks the first time Ladney has sued an automaker, he said in Charlotte, N.C., at the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Structural Plastics Division conference. At the meeting, Ladney also said Gain or its affiliates have never been in a lawsuit before with Alliance Gas Systems of Chesterfield Township, Mich.
A DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman said March 31 that company lawyers are reviewing the suit, and the company had no comment. DaimlerChrysler is scheduled to file an answer in court April 9, she said.
Doveport, a molder in Port Huron, Mich., did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Steven VanHoeck, vice president and treasurer of Alliance Gas Systems, had plenty to say. He denied charges in the lawsuit that Alliance violated the Melea patents, and ``induced infringement'' by the other defendants, with its gas controller used by Doveport to mold the parts.
VanHoeck said his company does not use the Melea spillover patent, which he called old and unreliable. ``We go out of our way to avoid the '637 patent [for spillover],'' he said. The company's work with Doveport involved Alliance's own technology, and ``we specifically avoid the method of the '637 patent,'' he said.
Alliance Gas Systems has had a patent pending for more than two years covering resin evacuation - and the patent is scheduled to be issued April 6, he said. The Alliance method is an alternative to spillover.
VanHoeck called the other patent in the suit, involving the gas unit pressure unit, ``a very old method of controlling valves'' no longer practiced in the industry.
``We think this is just a test to see if they can finally get anything on the patents they have left,'' VanHoeck said.