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Stopaq Wins Pipe Coating Patent Suit

Monday, March 19, 2012

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A Dutch innovator has won a major patent victory against pipeline coating multinational Canusa-CPS in what the winner is calling a “real David and Goliath story.”

David, in this case, is the Dutch company Stopaq, developer of Wrappingband, a corrosion protection coating in wrap form for transmission pipelines.

 Stopaq (left); Canusa (right)

 Stopaq (left); Canusa (right)

The German court held that Wrapid Bond (illustrated at right), a wraparound corrosion protective coating, copied Stopaq’s proprietary visco-elastic pipeline coating in wrap form (left).

Toronto-based Canusa-CPS (Goliath) also supplies products and systems for onshore and offshore pipeline corrosion and thermal protection. Canusa is a division of ShawCor Ltd., a global energy services company specializing in products and services for pipelines and pipe services. ShawCor’s other divisions include Bredero Shaw, the world’s largest pipeline coating concern.

Recall Ordered

In a decision issued Friday (March 16), Germany’s Landgericht Mannheim ruled that Canusa’s Wrapid Bond product had “copied Stopaq’s proprietary visco-elastic technology,” according to Stopaq. The German regional court is one of the world’s leading patent courts.

The ruling says Canusa must:

• Stop offering or placing its Wrapid Bond product on the German market;

• Notify customers that Wrapid Bond “may not be used for corrosion protection purposes unless a license from Stopaq is obtained”;

• Recall Wrapid Bond from distribution channels;

• Provide Stopaq with detailed information on the origin and sales channels of Wrapid Bond; and

• Compensate Stopaq for any damage incurred by the patent infringement.

The ruling, which applies only to the German market, is not yet available in English. Canusa-CPS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Visco-Elastic Pipeline Coating

Stopaq’s Wrappingband, used in corrosion protection and rehabilitation, is designed for onshore, offshore and subsea pipeline applications. The visco-elastic coating contains a proprietary composition of fully amorphous polyisobutene polymers. Like Wrappingband, Canusa’s Wrapid Bond is billed as a visco-elastic system for corrosion protection on aboveground and underground pipelines.

Last year, Stopaq won a related action filed in the Netherlands by Canusa, which was trying to bring Wrapid Bond to the Dutch market. Stopaq prevailed in that action as well.

2-Year Suit

The new German verdict, by a three-judge panel, follows two years of litigation. The case named ShawCor; its president and CEO, W.P. Buckley; Canusa-CPS; its vice president Ron Dunn; and two German sales representatives.

In a statement, Stopaq said Canusa “tried to deny any responsibility for the distribution of the product in Germany in an effort to evade a judgment.”

Stopaq also said that ShawCor and Canusa argued during the case that they produced “up to 20” different versions of Wrapid Bond, although the companies advertise a single product under that name.

The apparent discrepancy “raises serious question of product uniformity,” Stopaq says.

The case included multiple lab analyses and expert opinions by each party, as well as an independent expert from the respected Fraunhofer Institute, to review the products and claims.

‘Real Vindication’

Stopaq founder and owner Frans Nooren called the verdict “a historic day for our company” and “a real David and Goliath story.”

“In all my years as a businessman and inventor, I have never been so upset by such a ruthless pursuit of business at all costs,” Nooren said. “I kept asking myself, ‘Why is Shawcor involved in this? They have many patents, and I’m certain they want people to respect their intellectual property.’”

Stopaq CEO Frits Doddema called the verdict “a real vindication,” adding: “I hope this verdict will send a strong signal to other markets that copying technology is illegal and sooner or later there will be justice.”

‘Dissuasive Effect’

Despite Stopaq’s two victories, the dispute is not over. Wrapid Bond is still available worldwide, and the court cases to date apply only to sales in Germany and the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, another piece of the Stopaq German litigation—involving the same parties and products, but different patents—is still working its way through court. That case is scheduled to be heard in October.

Nathan Harris, an intellectual property attorney who is advising the Stopaq board on the litigation, declined to say Monday whether Stopaq would pursue action against Wrapid Bond in other countries.

However, he noted Germany’s economic influence in the European Union and added: “Because this court is so well known and the issues have been so thoroughly reviewed, we hope this will have a dissuasive effect.”


Tagged categories: Corrosion; Lawsuits; Offshore; Pipelines; ShawCor

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