Six years ago, Therma-Tru Corp., Maumee, Ohio-based maker of wood-grained fiberglass doors, sued Plastpro, of Livingston, N.J., over patent infringement. A few weeks ago, a U.S. district court judge rejected most of its claims, allowing Plastpro executives to do a victory dance--at least for now.
According to Plastpro, Therma-Tru sought the lawsuit in order to limit competition, not just to protect its innovative fiberglass reinforced polymer composite door.
Plastpro's executives are jubilant at the judge's decision. Shirley Wang, president of Plastpro, derides Therma-Tru's legal efforts as "interference from an anti-competitive lawsuit," and says she feels her company's position that no patent infringement occurred "has been vindicated."
Therma-Tru's reaction, of course, was much different. Company representatives say their day in court will come again. They plan to appeal, and some parts of the judge's response are still pending. Bottom line: Therma-Tru makes no excuses for its belief that it invented the fiberglass door technology and should be the primary benefactor.
"As the industry pioneer, we created the category and encouraged the conversion of the industry to fiberglass," says vice president of technology Dan Templeton, who oversees Therma-Tru's intellectual property. "We have invested more in research, design, and manufacturing technology to build this industry than any other manufacturer."
"Therma-Tru's position in this case was that someone took a plant tour and essentially used that information to copy products," notes Debbie Robinson, with Clear Blue, the Chicago-based public relations firm representing Therma-Tru. "They feel pretty strongly about this, and the fact is that when patent infringements hit the appeals court, they are often reversed. These are complex cases, and appeals courts are more equipped to handle and understand them."