04 December 02 Mee Industries has announced the successful conclusion of a patent infringement suit brought against it by Dow Chemical Company. The Federal Court suit, tried in December of last year in Orlando, Florida, USA, was ended by a decision of the court in late September of this year. In the suit, Dow accused Mee Industries of infringement of patents dealing with the use of fogging technology for enhancement of power output of industrial gas turbines. Dow’s patents were held to be both invalid and non-infringed by Mee Industries and its customers.
Dow filed the suit in April 2000, asserting that Mee Industries had infringed two of its patents. Dow claimed the right to damages for Mee Industries’ manufacture and sale, not only of fogging systems for overspray (injection of liquid water into a gas turbine compressor), but also for evaporative cooling of inlet air. Dow made this claim for damages despite the fact that, known to Dow, Mee Industries had offered its fogging systems for use as evaporative cooling of turbine inlet air in the late 1980s and first sold such a system in 1991, over five years prior to the filing date of Dow’s earliest patent. In fact, in 1994 Mee installed evaporative cooling fog systems on five gas turbines in Channel View Texas that were at the time, owned by Dow Chemical Company.
In early August 2000, during the course of the suit, Dow filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction against Mee Industries, seeking an Order of the court requiring Mee to cease manufacture and sale of fogging systems for gas turbine applications. The court conducted an evidentiary hearing and refused Dow’s motion for Preliminary Injunction in an opinion in February 2001.
In the opinion, the court found that the use of fogging technology for evaporative cooling of inlet air and for overspray in an industrial gas turbine was taught in 1990, six years prior to the earliest Dow patent filing date, in a publication describing a power generation facility in Rifle, Colorado. In addition, the court found that Mee Industries had offered to sell a fogging system including evaporative cooling and variable overspray more than a year prior to Dow’s earliest patent filing date. As to Dow’s arguments that its patents were valid because they included the “art” of adding water in increments over time, the court commented: “…that it would be obvious to even a layperson – much less a person of ordinary skill in the art of turbine or fog system design….”
Despite this early ruling from the court, Dow, a company of nearly limitless resources, continued prosecution of its case against Mee Industries. During the trial in December of last year, the court (1) excluded much of Dow’s evidence and (2) threw out its case as to damages. In the opinion of the court dated in September of this year, the Dow patents were held invalid over the same 1990 publication and the same Mee Industries offer for sale found by the Court in response to Dow’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction two years prior. In addition, Mee Industries was held not to infringe the Dow patents.