Conair Group Inc. has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Novatec Inc., a company headed by former Conair executive Conrad Bessemer.
In the lawsuit, filed April 15 in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Conair alleges that Novatec's Intelli PET Drying System infringes on its patents.
Bessemer is not named as a defendant, but the first paragraph of the lawsuit is aimed directly at him: Bessemer ended a 19-year career in Conair management to lead an investor group that bought Novatec in 2006.
This isn't a typical patent infringement case. This case involves the added intrigue of Conair's long-time employee and former president, Conrad Bessemer, leaving Conair to head up ... the accused infringer, the lawsuit read. Under [Bessemer's] direction, Novatec revamped its plastic-drying product line to mimic that of Conair, culminating with the introduction of its Intelli PET Drying System that incorporates the valuable patented technology developed and patented at Conair prior to [Bessemer's] departure.
Bessemer fired back, issuing a joint statement on April 17 with Steve Maguire, majority shareholder of Novatec. They say Novatec does not violate the Conair patent, and the lawsuit has no basis in fact.
It is also a deliberate effort to besmirch the reputation of Conrad Bessemer who has not worked at Conair in almost three-and-a-half years, the statement read.
Christopher Keller, Conair's president and chief operating officer, declined to comment when contacted by Plastics News. Conair is based in Cranberry Township, Pa.
Bessemer held several management posts at Conair, including president of Conair North America and vice president of operations. About three months after Bessemer left Conair, he led a group that bought Novatec, a Baltimore-based supplier of dryers, blenders and conveying equipment. Bessemer is president and CEO of Novatec.
The lawsuit cites a Conair patent issued in 1996 titled Apparatus and Method for Controlled Drying of Plastic Pellets. Conair claims that Novatec's Intelli PET infringes that patent.
Bessemer said the patent applies to a software feature that Conair made available, but received little customer interest. Conair incorporated the feature on its EnergySmart resin dryer, introduced after Bessemer left Conair, according to the statement from Maguire and Bessemer.
Maguire said the Conair software is overly complex and costly.
This is why we don't infringe because their software parent just isn't necessary on Novatec proprietary systems, Maguire said in the statement. The bottom line is that we don't come close to any of the claims in this Conair patent.
Conair wants the court to issue an injunction stopping Novatec from infringing on its patent. Conair also is seeking damages. The company wants a jury trial.
Conair charges in the suit that, after Bessemer took over as Novatec's top executive, the Baltimore company began introducing products that mimicked those offered by Conair.
Bessemer said Novatec has had an ongoing direct dialogue with Keller for the last month on the patent issue. He called the lawsuit baseless and expressed shock and outrage at Conair's charges he took the Conair technology.
There is no intrigue here, Bessemer said.
For a copy of the complaint, and the response from Bessemer and Maguire, see The Plastics Blog at www.plasticsnews.com/blog.