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Federal Judge Rules in Favor of EFI Vutek in Patent Lawsuit

And Durst files suit in Germany over white-ink technologies.




In mid-March, a federal judge issued a summary judgment ruling in EFI VUTEk's favor with regards to the company's defense of a patent lawsuit filed by Leggett & Platt, EFI reports. The ruling concluded that all the asserted claims of Leggett & Platt's (L&P) patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,755,518) are invalid on multiple grounds.

Leggett & Platt had brought the lawsuit during EFI's acquisition of Vutek in May 2005 in the Eastern District of Missouri, asserting that the L&P patent covered Vutek's UV ink-curing technology.

EFI maintained that Vutek was the first to invent and patent the UV technologies in question. The federal judge sided with EFI, finding that Vutek's UV-curing methods were invented and patented first (U.S. Patent Nos. 6,457,823 and 6,616,355) and, hence, invalidated Leggett & Platt's asserted patent claims.

'The judge's ruling vindicates the innovative team that joined EFI from Vutek,' says Jim Etheridge, EFI's general counsel. 'We believed from the outset that L&P's claims were without merit given Vutek's early entry into…the digital UV printing market against competitive technologies, including those from Leggett & Platt.'

'L&P has appealed this ruling,' Etheridge reports, 'but we anticipate the Federal Court in Washington DC to reach the same conclusion.'

In addition, EFI reports, Durst has filed its own patent-infringement action against EFI in Germany on the use of white ink. 'We believe this patent to be invalid in light of Vutek's prior inventions, and we expect that Durst also will lose its patent based on invalidity,' says Etheridge.


Asked to comment on the EFI report, Dr. Richard Piock, Durst's managing director, says that, 'Durst invested significant time, money, and efforts in R&D to develop and commercialize this [white-printing] technology, and has sought patent protection to protect its proprietary…technology. On October 13, 2005, Durst was granted German Patent Nr. 20 2005 012 179.7. Prior to filing its patent-infringement action against EFI/Vutek, Durst spent considerable time and efforts investigating the facts and legal grounds of this matter with its European patent counsel and Vutek's technical staff. But Durst ultimately found it was necessary to resort to formal legal means in Germany to protect this valuable intellectual property.'

Piock goes on to say that, 'It is Durst's position that, while it generally competes with EFI/Vutek worldwide as a friendly competitor, Durst's valuable intellectual property rights in its white-printing technology were wrongfully misappropriated by EFI/Vutek, and it was necessary to resort to the courts to seek protection. The German Court in Darmstadt, Germany, has scheduled the first round of discussions in this action for July 27, 2007.'

Representatives of L&P had no comment on the EFI Vutek report.







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