It is said that a patent is only as good as your ability to protect it, so that is what Mid-America Machining (Brooklyn, MI), a designer and manufacturer of blow molds and extrusion blow molds, is doing. On June 15, Mid-America Machining Inc. filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against Milacron Plastics Technologies Group LLC (Cincinnati, OH).
The lawsuit accuses Uniloy, a Milacron unit, of infringing on five of Mid-America's design and utility patents. Uniloy makes competing products (molds and tooling, and machinery) and supplies the same industry as Mid-America. The suit alleges that Milacron's Uniloy division "has placed infringing products into the stream of commerce knowing and intending that this Judicial District was, and is, a likely destination of those products." Mid-America's suit notes that, based on this information, Milacron is making, using, selling, offering to sell, and/or distributing the infringing products "at least to Meijer Inc."
Mid-America's patents concern the "Method and Apparatus for Making a Light Weight Container" and were issued on various dates in 2013 and 2014. They cover "methods and apparatuses for manufacturing light weight, blow-molded containers and the containers themselves."
The lawsuit notes that as a "sophisticated family of companies," Milacron is aware of the "intellectual property rights of others in the relevant blow-molding industry," and because the company has obtained patents of its own related to manufacturing technologies, Milacron is "knowledgeable and well aware of the patent landscape among its competitors."
According to the filing, Mid-America informed Milacron at least as early as May 2012 that "it had developed a new light weight container and new technologies for manufacturing light weight containers, and that it was in the process of patenting said container and technologies."
Peter Lobbestael, Vice President of Sales at Mid-America, told PlasticsToday that the company contacted Milacron because "we wanted to let a few of our competitors know that we had filed for patents, trying to prevent from happening what has just happened," said Lobbestael.
In October 2014, Mid-America informed Milacron through multiple e-mail communications to Milacron's Vice President and General Manager, Dave Skala, that the Patent & Trademark Office had issued three of the "Patents-in-Suit": the 101 patent, 599 patent and D774 patent. "We informed [Milacron] that we'd been awarded patents and were going to bring a new bottle shape to the market because both companies supply the same industry."
Lobbestael noted that Mid-America regrets that it has to come to this, but also recognizes the value of protecting the company's intellectual property. "At this point we'll see how everything plays out," he said. "We've done everything we can to protect our IP and will continue to do so."
Milacron declined to comment.