Eastman Chemical Co. has filed a lawsuit against DAK Americas LLC, claiming unauthorized use of Eastman's proprietary IntegRex-brand PET technology.
Kingsport-based Eastman filed the suit March 1 in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del. Eastman has a similar case pending against PET maker Indorama Group of Bangkok.
Eastman and Charlotte, N.C.-based DAK both said they will vigorously defend themselves in the lawsuit.
On March 2, DAK Americas President and CEO Hector Camberos said his firm is in the process of reviewing the case and denies all allegations.
DAK Americas makes PET resin at four sites in North America: Fayetteville and Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Cosoleacaque, Mexico. The firm is a unit of Mexican conglomerate Alfa SAB de CV.
The new filing comes less than a month after a judge in the same court ruled in Eastman's favor in a suit Wellman Inc. had filed against Eastman in 2007. In that suit, Fort Mill, S.C.-based Wellman claimed Eastman had violated patents for titanium-catalyzed PET resins and preforms made from those resins.
In the Indorama suit filed Dec. 18, also in the same court Eastman alleges patent infringement, breach of contract and trade-secret misappropriation. The case stems from Indorama's alleged disclosure and use of information covered by a license agreement between Eastman and several Indorama business entities in Europe.
The licensing agreement between the companies precludes the European defendants from using Eastman's IntegRex PET technology, and further prevents them from accessing the knowledge of former Eastman employees regarding such technology. The employees joined Indorama when its European subsidiaries bought Eastman's northwest European PET and purified terephthalic acid business in March 2008.
Indorama officials have said the firm will be able to operate its European PET plants by using alternative conventional and non-Eastman technologies for a relatively low cost, and implement the change with minimal or no disruption to its operations.
Eastman first commercialized its IntegRex technology in 2006 at a plant in Columbia, S.C. The technology has lower energy inputs than standard PET production methods, the company said.
In 2009, Eastman's performance polymers sales including PET fell 33 percent to about $720 million. The entire North American PET market has been under pressure from lightweighting of many beverage containers and from an overall economic slowdown.
Based on estimated 2009 sales, Eastman ranked second in the North American PET field with a market share of 23 percent. DAK ranked fifth with a market share of 10 percent. Indorama held a share of less than 8 percent, but is in the process of opening a massive 1 billion-pound-capacity plant in Decatur, Ala.
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