AKRON—Two manufacturers of tire building machines are embroiled in a patent infringement dispute over alleged theft of intellectual property on equipment primarily sold in China.
The battle pits VMI Group of Netherlands, the largest company in the tire building machinery industry, against Safe-Run Machinery (Suzhou) Co. Ltd., a relative newcomer to the industry, having been formed in China in 2009.
The matter between the firms apparently started earlier this year when VMI Group accused Safe-Run of infringing on patents covering mechanical portions of a uni-stage passenger tire building machine. The Chinese company denied the allegations and said it has filed suit in Chinese court to affirm it did not infringe on VMI's intellectual properties.
Each company then released statements on the matter three days apart in the first half of September, with Safe-Run putting out its news release Sept. 9 and VMI on Sept. 12.
Safe-Run said in its statement that it had filed a lawsuit “to confirm the non-infringement of VMI patents,” adding that the Dutch group had not offered legally admissible evidence to support its claims. “VMI cannot claim infringement on its patent rights by Safe-Run Group without any factual or legal proof,” Safe-Run said.
The Chinese firm added it had focused on developing its own innovative technologies, and had been granted national-level patents.
Safe-Run, in a follow-up statement to European Rubber Journal, a sister publication of Rubber & Plastics News, said it has acted to sue VMI in the Court of Suzhou in April and the Court of Shanghai in July, adding that it was “the first one taking legal steps, and up to now Safe-Run has not received any (notice of) lawsuits from VMI.”
The Chinese machinery company claimed its legal actions followed a top-level meeting with VMI at which the Dutch company's managers raised the issue of patent infringement but without offering “any legally admissible evidence.”
In its Sept. 12 statement, VMI said it was planning to take legal steps against Safe-Run. “Despite repeated warnings, Safe-Run did not stop the infringement on several of VMI's patents,” the statement said. “VMI therefore decided to take legal steps against Safe-Run.”
The Dutch machinery company, however, didn't detail what those steps were.
On the heels of this latest statement, both firms exhibited at the International Tire Exhibition & Conference, held Sept. 13-15 in Akron. Their booths were side by side at the front of the expo floor, and officials from both discussed the patent infringement dispute.