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Beaumont Technologies Battles Patent Infringement

by Jen Clark

Plastics Business

Beaumont Technologies, Inc., Erie, PA, has filed a patent infringement claim against a Chinese company for lifting intellectual property from various known and unknown sources. John Beaumont, president and CEO, said the theft was blatant.

"A company was posing as a distributor of our patented MeltFlipper® in China and using our registered trademarks," he said. The company’s website included "page after page" of Beaumont Technologies’ marketing material – much more than what is available on the Beaumont Technologies website. The Chinese company also was representing itself as "Gold Certified Moldflow experts," Beaumont said. "Jay Schoemaker at Moldflow, who coordinates all certification, had never heard of them. It’s suspected that the Moldflow software also might have been pirated."

Officials with Beaumont Technologies had seen evidence of infringement from molds coming out of China before. This time, a number of people from Beaumont Technologies, including its legal team, began monitoring the other company’s website, which quickly blocked Beaumont Technologies traffic, Beaumont said. "We were initially able to get around this, but then we found them under a different name and started visiting that site. In both cases, we copied their website for the record. Eventually, they disappeared altogether."

In addition, Beaumont said the Chinese company was marketing itself in both China and the US. "We found that it was one of the companies we were bidding against (for a contract) with a major US-based company." This is problematic because an unsuspecting US company can be found in violation of US patent law when it imports a product or mold made with stolen technologies. "An additional concern is for US mold builders and molders who are put at a disadvantage by Chinese companies who may gain a technological edge through theft rather than legal means," he added.

As an example, Beaumont pointed to something his company has seen numerous times. "A US or European company will contact us with a request to evaluate a potential application of our technology in a mold they are having built in China. The company sends us initial mold designs with the Chinese company’s standard runner layout and design. When we review the designs, we see that the Chinese company’s standard runner design already includes our patented MeltFlipper technology," he explained, noting this would be a case where the US or European company isn’t familiar with Beaumont Technologies’ technology, did not recognize it or simply had not looked closely at the runner design. When Beaumont Technologies asks for more detail from the Chinese company, the design disappears from the additional drawings provided. "In some cases this has been as blatant as the Chinese company simply whiting out the feature on a mold drawing which is then scanned and sent back to us," Beaumont said. "The white-out is obvious."

Beaumont Technologies does not have patents in China. "Most people would agree one has virtually no value," Beaumont said, adding it is difficult to enforce US patent laws there. Therefore, it is legal if a mold utilizing US-patented technology is built in China and the mold or product stays in China. Once the mold or product enters the US, though, it is illegal and can be seized at its point of entry. Additionally, injunctions can be enacted to stop the use of the mold containing the technology at any company using these illegal molds. These actions do not discriminate as to whether the company that received the mold in the US knowingly did so or not. "An engineer at a company that receives these molds should clearly recognize our technology in the mold as it is distinctly different from conventional runners," he said. And, though the process might be painful, Beaumont said his goal with all of this is to raise awareness of the intellectual property laws in the US. But he knows raising awareness throughout the industry about intellectual property laws could be the only resolution to his company’s situation.

As for potential penalties, the website HowStuffWorks.com explains: "A court may decide to award treble damages to a patentee, especially in cases of willful infringement. This refers to a financial award worth three times the amount of the actual financial losses suffered. This may seem harsh, but the government imposes stiff penalties to discourage individuals or companies from using someone else’s ideas in the first place."