ST. LOUIS—Flexsys America L.P., a wholly owned subsidiary of Solutia Inc., has won several recent court and agency battles abroad regarding its patented PPD2 antidegradant manufacturing technology.
These decisions in Europe and Asia will be helpful precedents in the patent infringement case Flexsys is pursuing in the Cleveland federal district court, said Solutia Sales Manager Mark Jeffrey.
According to Solutia, Flexsys' PPD2 process is the most technologically advanced and economical process in the world for the manufacture of 4-ADPA, the chemical intermediate for the production of the rubber antidegradant 6PPD. The PPD2 process is protected by valid patents until 2019, the company said.
In March, Flexsys won a major victory in the Supreme Court of South Korea when that court dismissed an appeal of a lower court decision which found key claims of Flexsys' Korean patent to be valid, Solutia said.
Also in March, the European Patent Office rejected competitors' attempts to invalidate Flexsys' PPD patents in the European Union. This decision followed January rulings by China's Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court and Germany's Federal Patent Court, both of which dismissed competitors' attempts to invalidate Flexsys' PPD2 patents in those countries, Solutia said.
Jeffrey said the foreign rulings won't have any direct bearing on Flexsys' U.S. patent infringement case, but will be helpful in establishing the company's patent rights before the Cleveland court.
Flexsys originally filed the Cleveland case in January 2005. It accused Chinese chemical manufacturer Sinorg¬chem Co. Ltd. of using Flexsys' patented process to make 6PPD and 4-ADPA without Flexsys' license or permission.
It also accused Sovereign Chemical Co., Sinorgchem's U.S. distributor, of distributing Sinorgchem's 6PPD and 4-ADPA in the U.S. without Flexsys' approval; Korea Kumho Petrochemical Co. Ltd. of using Sinorgchem 4-ADPA to make its own 6PPD; and Kumho Tire Co. Inc. and Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. of making and distributing tires in the U.S. made with these substances.
Two months later, Flexsys filed a patent infringement case against Sinorgchem and Sovereign before the U.S. International Trade Commission. In July 2006, the ITC ruled in Flexsys' favor and issued an exclusionary order against Sinorgchem's antidegradants.
Sinorgchem appealed to the Federal Circuit appeals court, and in December 2007 the appeals court reversed the ITC. Flexsys failed to persuade the appeals court to reconsider the case, and in June 2008 the exclusionary order was lifted. Flexsys refiled with the ITC, but this time Sinorgchem obtained summary judgment dismissing the complaint.
While the ITC action was ongoing, Flexsys agreed to a stay of the Cleveland court case. In March 2009, however, it revived the case against all the previous defendants. Flexsys seeks a multi-million-dollar judgment against the companies, as well as a permanent injunction against the distribution of their antidegradants and tires in the U.S.
The case is still in discovery, Jeffrey said.
Flexsys owns the largest PPD manufacturing plant in the U.S., as well as the only PPD manufacturing capacity in South America, Solutia said. It also operates the largest 4-ADPA plant in the world as well as PPD manufacturing operations in Antwerp, Belgium.
The company markets its antidegradants under the Santoflex brand name.