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Eastman prevails in lawsuit against PlastiPure/CertiChem

A federal jury ruled in favor of Eastman Chemical in its lawsuit against PlastiPure and its sister company CertiChem. Court documents titled "Eastman Chemical Co. v. PlastiPure and CertiChem" verified the nature of the suit was "Trademark Infringement."

PlasticsToday reached out to Eastman about the verdict, and a spokesperson said, "While the jury verdict speaks volumes, the case is still in post-trial motions and pleadings. Once legal proceedings are officially complete, we will be available to comment."

PlastiPure did not respond to a request for comment. 

In January 2012, Eastman Chemical Co. filed legal action against PlastiPure and CertiChem claiming the companies made false or misleading statements regarding EA coming from Eastman's Tritan line of resins and products using these materials.

More than 600 food contact products, including food serving and storing items, reusable sports bottles and infant care products are made with Tritan. Researchers at CertiChem said they have found EA to leach from many plastics, including products made from Tritan under common-use conditions. CertiChem and PlastiPure then published peer-reviewed results of the potential EA in Tritan, triggering the lawsuit by Eastman Chemical.

The Austin American-Statesman wrote in an article that in closing arguments the attorneys for Eastman said PlastiPure and CertiChem had "engaged in unfair commercial competition, waging a media campaign against the Tennessee company in trade journals, news articles and press releases, while PlastiPure rolled out its own line of similar goods."

PlastiPure develops EA-free plastic materials and products, while CertiChem says it is research based and provides its own "proprietary, highly sensitive and very reliable" in vitro cell proliferation assays for detecting hormonal activity, called CertiRobic assays. George Bittner, a biologist from the University of Texas, founded both PlastiPure and CertiChem.

In an interview in 2012, Lucian Boldea, VP and general manager of Eastman's specialty plastics business, told PlasticsToday that the purpose of the lawsuit was to enforce and protect the company from false and misleading representation. He said Eastman is comfortable with the data it has publically provided, which states Tritan is EA-free, but felt the company needed to protect its best interests.

In addition, Eastman believes there is a conflict of interest between PlastiPure and CertiChem.

 "There's a lot of misinformation out there in the marketplace by CertiChem," Boldea said. "For instance, to say there's some sort of distinction between the two companies when they have the same owners and are in the same building seems to be a conflict of interest. Well, it crossed the line when they started to contact our customers and that really left us with no choice."

According to the Statesman, attorneys for PlastiPure and CertiChem claimed that Eastman has only examined three of 11 chemicals in Tritan.

Also in 2012, PlastiPure CEO Mike Usey was quick to dispute the veracity of Eastman's claims of several studies conducted by independent third-party labs. He said only one published study has been named to date but it only tested a few ingredients of Tritan resins, not the resin itself, much less stressed products made from the resin. 

Furthermore, he said that several of the authors have received funds from Eastman Chemical in the past, and no source of funding is listed in the company's study. 

"From what we've seen, Eastman Chemical is making questionable statements about independent third-party testing," Usey said. "Should a manufacturer have total control over who tests its products, especially products critical to consumer safety?  That's a question, I believe, that Tritan customers and consumers should be asking." 

Before the trial began, Usey told NPR that if Eastman won, it could mean the end of both PlastiPure and CertiChem. He said that more than half the people that were at CertiChem and PlastiPure before the suit are now gone.

"Eastman is extremely pleased with this verdict. The real winners are consumers who value reliable, accurate information and want safe products for their families," said Boldea in a news release. "We remain committed to the commercial success of Tritan and will continue to grow by exploring new markets and collaborating with our customers to develop new, innovative applications that meet consumer demands."

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