Updated: Taiwanese Molding Machine Manufacturer Accused of MuCell Patent Infringement

CLF's latest injection molding machine won a top innovation prize from Taipei Plas show organizers, but Trexel believes it violates its global microcellular foam patents.

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The same technology that won Chuan Lih Fa Machinery Works (CLF) the top injection molding innovation prize at Taipei Plas has produced charges of patent infringement from Trexel, the exclusive licensor of the MuCell microcellular foaming process.

 

During a four-country tour of Asia, Steve Braig, president and CEO of Trexel, visited Taipei Plas (Sept. 26-30, Nangang Exhibition Hall, Taipei), traveling along with Trexel’s managing director for Asia. CLF, which is headquartered in Tainan City, Taiwan and has four factories there in addition to two plants in China, displayed the foaming technology on its new 180TXR Eco µ injection molding machine.

 

On the evening of Sept. 27, CLF won the top prize in the “Plastic Injection Molding Machine” category of technology prizes, awarded by show co-organizers, TAMI (Taiwan Association of Machinery Industry) and TAITRA (Taiwan External Trade Development Council).

 

In its submission for the award, CLF described the new press as a “microcellular foam co-injection molding machine.” At the company’s booth, a CLF representative described the machine as using a physical versus a chemical foaming process—the same as MuCell—but noted that CLF’s differs from MuCell in the fact that the CLF press employs a coinjection style injection unit compared to the modified standard injection unit used on a MuCell-ready machine.

 

In spoken comments, the CLF representative said its Eco µ injection molding machine did not apply MuCell, referencing instead Everfocus Worldwide Co. Ltd. That company, which is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, was awarded a patent in September 2007 for a technology described as “Controllable microscopic bubble nucleation in fluid polymer material production method and its apparatus,” with Chien-Tsung Chang and David William Hind listed as the inventors. In the CLF booth, however, a printed display specifically mentioned MuCell.

 

Braig told Plastics Technology that he believes CLF’s machine violates Trexel’s global mircocelluar patents. Braig noted that Trexel doesn’t not have a strong patent position in China, limiting its ability to pursue action in that country, but he added that any company using the technology for a part within a smart phone or car, for example, that is being exported from China, would be in violation of Trexel’s patents, adding that his company would “defend our IP property position vigorously.”

 

Braig added that Trexel has already notified its patent attorney and determined that it has patent protection in Taiwan, which should make defense of the technology “easier.”

 

CLF Responds
In an e-mail response to Plastics Technology, CLF’s R&D manager verified that CLF is applying the Everfocus patent (U.S. 7264757) for “controllable microscopic bubble nucleation in fluid polymer material production method and its apparatus”. The CLF R&D manager acknowledged the similarities in the technologies, while noting that despite those parallels both have been issued patents.

 

“Although [Everfocus’] patent and Trexel’s are both for microcellular foam technology, the two parties have been granted patents and patent approval certificates,” the manager wrote, “which symbolizes that both technologies have been recognized by the government. Of course there won’t be any issues on infringement of patented technology.”

 

The R&D manager further laid out the respective differences in how the technology is integrated into the injection molding machine. In the case of CLF, coinjection or sandwich molding is utilized with two barrels used to create an ABA structure, wherein the low-pressure gas is injected via the “B” barrel. Trexel, CLF counters, has licensees utilize a single barrel injection set up.

 

“The comparison of the two injection molding technologies and organizations is completely different, so there is no patent infringement to Trexel,” the manager wrote. 

 

The manager further clarified that the license agreement was signed with Everfocus Taiwan, utilizing technology from Everfocus in the U.K. The manager also said CLF looked at the Trexel technology but "assessed the cost too high and hence we gave up using MuCell."

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