Alleging unauthorized use of its IntegRex polyethylene terephthalate (PET) manufacturing technology, Eastman Chemical Co. (Kingsport, TN) filed suit on Dec. 18 against The Indorama Group (Jakarta, Indonesia) and its PET affiliates in the U.S., Europe, and Thailand. Specifically, the suit charges Indorama with patent infringement, breach of contract, and trade secret misappropriation.
The patent infringement claims stem from three Eastman patents that cover PET manufacturing technology, while the breach of contract and trade secret claims arise from Indorama’s purported unauthorized disclosure and use of information covered by a license agreement between Eastman and several European Indorama entities. In 2007, Indorama acquired Eastman PET facilities in the Netherlands and England (see our coverage here).
Eastman’s IntegRex production technology eliminates solid stating of PET, to create a spherical versus cylindrical pellet. The company began work on the technology in 2000, which culminated with the commercial launch of its ParaStar PET in 2008. The company planned to have 350,000 tonnes/yr of production capacity for the new PET from a facility in Columbia, SC. In addition to high clarity, Eastman said Parastar would reduce acetaldehyde levels 25%.
Indorama’s PET business, Indorama Ventures (Bangkok, Thailand), claims to be the second largest PET resin producer in the world, with facilities recently constructed in Lithuania (198,000 tonnes/yr) and Alabama. The Lithuanian plant is located in Klaipeda and utilizes continuous polycondensation and solid state polymerization. The Alabama operation, called AlphaPET, was set to be operation in the second half of 2009. Collocated with a BP Chemical paraxylene and terephthalic acid facility, that site’s 432,000 tonnes/yr of capacity was to use Uhde Inventa-Fischer melt to resin (MTR) technology.
The company’s other U.S. facility, StarPET (Asheboro, NC) was acquired in March 2003. After various expansion projects, the plant’s initial capacity of 50,000 tons/yr was increased to 225,000 tons/yr. That facility employs Zimmer continuous polymerization and Buhler solid state polycondensation technology for PET production. Eastman’s complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware.
A spokesperson for Eastman told PlasticsToday that the company’s normal practice is to not comment on pending litigation beyond information that’s included in a press release. The spokesperson said the trial schedule will be set by the court, so Eastman can’t speculate on the schedule for the process going forward. The company also declined to comment on whether or not monetary compensation was being sought for any damages. The press release also didn’t say whether or not an injunction would be sought to force Indorama to cease production. As of press time, Indorama had not responded to questions from PlasticsToday. —[email protected]