Bloomberg News is reporting on a legal case on expired patents that is bound to impact a variety of plastics processors and toolmakers. The story involves thermoformer/injection molder Solo Cup Co., which won an appeals court ruling related to its practice of listing expired patents on some of its products. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington upheld a lower court ruling that Solo Cup did not intend to deceive consumers by displaying expired patent numbers on its cups and lids -- it was simply trying to save money by continuing to use the same tooling.
[Solo Cup] said it didn't immediately swap out the molds that had the old patent numbers because each replacement would have cost about $500,000. More than 100 lawsuits have been filed this year against companies including Pfizer Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. after a court in a different case in December said companies can face a penalty of as much as $500 for every item falsely marked as under patent protection. The Solo Cup case was brought by a San Diego patent lawyer.According to Bloomberg, the appeals court said companies like Solo Cup are protected from such cases if they can prove that they had a reason to continue to list the expired patents. On the common sense meter, this ruling looks like a winner. But it may be bad news for tooling firms that had been hoping for a surge in business from OEMs with an urgent need to change molds to remove obsolete patent numbers! How about it -- were there any mold makers out there who were rooting for the plaintiffs' attorneys to win this court battle?