Plastics firms claim victory in patent dispute

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Two plastics sector companies locked in a patent dispute were each claiming victory today after a judgment was handed down by the Patent County Court (PCC) in London.

Aim-listed Environmental Recycling Technologies (ERT) had claimed that an amended patent lodged by Somerset-based Protomax Plastics infringed its processes and said the court’s judgment confirmed its ownership of its core Powder Impression Moulding (Pim) process patents.

Roger Baynham, ERT’s managing director, said his company had “an obligation to its licensees and stakeholders” to pursue the case against Protomax.

The company said in a statement that it was “delighted with the outcome of this case as it confirms ERT's ownership rights to the core PIM process technology for recycling mixed waste plastics.

"ERT will continue to police its intellectual property robustly", it added.

Baynham, who also heads the British Plastics Federation’s Recycling Group, acknowledged that Protomax and its co-defendants Upcycle – which jointly hold the P2 recycling process – had been granted “a very limited patent” relating to the use of a former in a moulding process using Pim.

“It is a pyrrhic victory on their part,” he said.

However Nick Stillwell, founder and owner of Protomax, argued the PCC judge had found in his company’s favour.

“ERT’s claim that [our] patent was not inventive was dismissed. The judge concluded that the patent amendment was valid and should be allowed,” he said.

Stillwell said he had wished to avoid litigation, which had gone on for three years and had affected his firm’s ability to do business.

“This was a 'David and Goliath' scenario. We have four members of staff. We didn’t want to fight anyone, we just wanted to get on with making and supplying machines. Now that this has been settled the orders are coming in.”

Stillwell, who said unspecified costs had been awarded to his company, argued he would never apply for a patent again: “It’s not worth the hassle.”