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Patent Ruling Hard, Not Fast

A protracted case that saw a federal court probe cement chemistry and engineering properties to determine alleged patent infringement is drawing to a

CP STAFF

A protracted case that saw a federal court probe cement chemistry and engineering properties to determine alleged patent infringement is drawing to a close overwhelmingly in defendants' favor. Issued in late January, a final ruling in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Santa Ana) invalidated two remaining claims of infringement on a patent for rapid-setting cement.

Closing a suit filed in June 2002, Judge Alicemarie Stotler found that defendant CTS Cement Manufacturing of Cypress, Calif., had not infringed a patent held by Hassan Kunbargi and his company, Ultimax Corp., and co-plaintiff Heartland Cement Sales. Judge Stotler also granted CTS and co-defendants recovery of costs incurred in the suit, and is scheduled to hear motions on those claims in March. In addition to CTS Cement, others eligible for recovery of legal costs include packaged concrete giant, Quikrete Cos., and A&A Ready Mixed Concrete, a key California producer. Both had been named in the suit as sellers of a product where plaintiffs alleged patent infringement.

The final ruling invalidated infringement claims centering on the strength and fluoride characteristics of CTS Cement's Rapid Set product. The court found that Kunbargi-claimed technology had been in commercial use for more than a year prior to the awarding of his patent. A December 2004 ruling invalidated plaintiffs' earlier allegation of infringement on two related rapid-setting cement patents. The court found inconclusive Kunbargi's claim of ownership of technology that was based on cement processing methods identified during his late 1980s employment with CTS Cement founder Edward Rice. After more than five years of proceedings, the court invalidated a total of 47 patent infringement claims.

CTS Cement markets Rapid Set Cement in bagged and bulk form for high early strength concrete applications, plus companion Type K cement and packaged mortar, repair, stucco and dry mix products. It holds the industry's original technology Û dating to 1960 Û for high early strength cement, and has processing and packaging operations in California, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Mexico.

Garden Grove, Calif.-based Ultimax Corp. cites a total of four patents for rapid-strength cement. It markets a line of bagged products that includes Ultimax Cement, a blended hydraulic cement achieving 4,000 psi in one hour, and Quix, a similarly milled powder that can be used as a mineral additive to impart low shrinkage or reduced permeability in finished slabs and structures. Ultimax Corp. licenses production to Buzzi Unicem USA's Independence, Mo., mill Û formerly Heartland Cement.