A Casper, Wyo.-based maker of high density polyethylene pipe couplers has filed a patent-infringement lawsuit in U.S. District Court against St. Charles, Ill.-based manufacturers' representative R-Boc Representatives Inc., seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages.
Additionally, the suit alleges fraudulent and deceptive business practices.
In court filings in Chicago, Tom Minemyer, president of injection molder LÃ¶zon Solutions, accuses R-Boc officials Robert and Carolyn Lundeen of working with an unidentified molder and mold maker to copy LÃ¶zon's coupler designs, which R-Boc was distributing, and sell them in place of the LÃ¶zon products.
LÃ¶zon's couplers are used to join HDPE conduit, primarily in telecom applications.
Among the largest customers for LÃ¶zon couplers was Knoxville, Tenn.-based pipe extruder Dura-Line Corp. Minemyer alleges that Dura-Line - also named in the suit - has ``knowingly and willfully'' infringed on his patent. Dura-Line was bought recently by Boston-based private equity firm Audax Group.
The Lundeens also own B&C Distribution, which also was named in the lawsuit.
Neither Audax officials nor the Lundeens' lawyer responded to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
In filings with the court, Minemyer said the R-Boc product, packaging and accompanying directions for use are virtually identical to those of LÃ¶zon.
``Plaintiff Minemyer now finds itself unable to control the quality of the goods that purchasers believe had their origin with Minemyer,'' the lawsuit says.
``Minemyer has suffered this expectable result since defendants ... are supplying couplers that have not passed the required test and may well be of inferior quality. This situation could well ruin the reputation of [LÃ¶zon's] couplers because of the virtually same appearance of the untested couplers.''
Minemyer said in an April 20 telephone interview that LÃ¶zon suffered about $2 million in direct sales losses in 2006, and is seeking about $10 million for total damages and legal fees.
``The judge has the ability to rule that they have to pay me for the life of my patent,'' Minemyer said. ``If the low end is $10 million, the high end could be $60 million.''