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3M Sues Over Spray Gun Equipment Patents

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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Global adhesives and auto products manufacturer 3M (Maplewood, Minnesota) has filed suit against a China-based manufacturer and a California-based auto refinish products retailer over what it calls patent and copyright infringement related to spray-gun components.

The suit, filed April 5 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that Phoenix Automotive Refinishing Co. (Hangzhou, China) and K2 Concepts (Beaumont, California) worked to bring to market spray-gun cups that are identical to some 3M makes with its patented PPS Paint Preparation System technology.

PPS cups
3M

3M says a China-based manufacturer and a California retailer infringed its patents on its PPS Paint Preparation System technology.

3M’s PPS system is designed, the company says, to enable painters “to mix less paint, reduce the amount of solvent used, and speed cleanup.” The line includes spray-gun cups and collars, adapters, lids and liners, mix ratio inserts, and dispensers. Introduced in the early 2000s, the system is marketed to the auto refinish industry, and 3M says the system can be used with “virtually any spray gun.”

In the suit, 3M says cups manufactured by Phoenix and sold by K2 were marketed as a direct replacement for 3M’s patented equipment.

Suit Details

According to the suit, in 2016, Phoenix began marketing products using the PPS name, and using images that 3M says were lifted directly from 3M’s website. Phoenix later posted a video of a customer, whom 3M identifies as K2 Concepts owner Jason Urbano, demonstrating the alleged PPS knockoff equipment.

3M goes on to allege that K2 Concepts posted materials on its website and on Youtube—since removed from the site—that market so-called “K2 Cups” as a “price-effective cost alternative to PPS system.” K2 allegedly marketed the cups as identical to PPS cups, aside from their color. 3M also cites a post to a K2 online forum in which an account that appears to represent K2 says that the manufacturer that the company is working with has ways to “'get around’ the 3M patent issues.”

Video stills
Via court documents

According to the complaint, Phoenix posted a video of a customer, whom 3M identifies as K2 Concepts owner Jason Urbano, demonstrating the alleged PPS knockoff equipment.

3M says in the suit that its representative spoke with a representative of Phoenix about the copyright matter at a trade show in October 2016. 3M thus establishes that at least as of October, Phoenix was aware that it was in violation of 3M’s patents.

The suit details a total of 12 claims of patent violation and copyright infringement. 3M is seeking damages of up to $150,000 (the statutory maximum) for one of the counts, and in several other cases, is asking for “injunctive relief, to recover Phoenix’s profits, actual damages, enhanced profits and damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and treble damages.” The claims that specifically name K2 all ask for a court order to put an end to the infringement of the patents.

Company Response

In a press release announcing the suit, 3M said that the company “is committed to protecting its substantial investments in research and development, and in bringing new technologies and products to its customers, by obtaining intellectual property protection and enforcing its rights against unauthorized uses.”

K2 Concepts did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday (April 19).

   

Tagged categories: 3M; Automotive coatings; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Spray equipment; Spray guns

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