Friday, November 30, 2012

Tencel stretches the bounds of fibre profits (1996)

A major update on the Tencel business by Alex Scott of International Chemical Business magazine based mainly on an interview with David Wilkinson:
Industry experts have been backing lyocell, a high performance cellulose fibre, in increasing numbers since its emergence from the Courtaulds pilot plant in the UK in 1988. But are they justified in tagging it as the fibre of the future? Alex Scott reports on the latest twists in the emergence of lyocell.
'These are Next jeans - they are a 40:60 mix with cotton. Oh, and this is Versace,' says my guide peeling a brilliant orange blouse from its hanger. The white tiles and soft lighting belie a chic clothes boutique - but really I am being treated to a view of the future of the cellulosic fibre, Tencel, at Courtaulds' London headquarters.
'It is very comfortable, and strong, and attractive, and is certainly superior to viscose rayon,' says David Wilkinson, an executive director at Courtaulds, responsible for the company's fibres business.
With demand increasing it is apparent that Wilkinson is not the only one to be impressed: 'Tencel has substantial advantages over viscose, which is a 1.7m tonne/year market... the potential of Tencel is considerable,' says one UK analyst.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Upbeat Release: Courtaulds Looks Ahead (1996)

Courtaulds' Tencel fibre looks set for a buoyant year after CEO Sipko Huismans said: 'We cannot keep up with demand.'

Production is underway in Grimsby, UK, and Mobile, Alabama, and capacity is set to top 100 000 tonne/year by end-1997. 'Tencel holds about 0.1% of the world fibre market but its potential is huge,' he said.

Courtaulds this year won a patents dispute with Lenzing over Tencel - a decision is still under appeal in the US. 'We do not fear another competitor,' said Huismans. 'Two producers would expand the market faster than one.'

Last year Tencel was in the black for the first time and is set to make significant turnover and profit gains this year. However, Tencel's success was offset by other divisions.

27 May 1996 [Source: ICB]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Courtaulds accelerates expansion plans, but Tencel has cost problems (1996)

  • Tencel's for the next century.  Short term it has problems.
  • Excessive cost of Tencel...too high to command anything but the designer market.
  • Courtaulds says it is reducing its costs, but its initial confidence has given way to subdued assertions that its five-year lead in the marketplace will guarantee it a strong position.
  • Lenzing claim cost advantage.
  • Prospect of Asian giant (Garuda) buying Lenzing stake and pumping millions into Lyocell.

Lyocell is much stronger than viscose, allowing it to be used in finer fabrics, and absorbent, unlike synthetic fibres such as nylon, acrylic and polyester. Lyocell's developers say it creates fabrics that handle like cotton, feel like silk, hang like wool and are machine washable. It also offers environmental benefits, such as non-toxic production, little waste and renewable raw materials.
Because lyocell is similar in texture to silk, it is expected to become very popular in east Asia, where an increasingly affluent middle class is demanding high quality, colourful fashions suitable for the warm, high humidity climate experienced across the region.
In the lyocell process wood pulp is dissolved in N-methyl-morpholine-N-oxide (NMMO) solvent to produce 'dope' which is then extruded into a spinning bath of solvent, producing cellulose filaments. By contrast, the viscose process involves chemical breakdown of the wood pulp and produces sulfurous effluents.
In addition to the fibre's superior properties - high wet and dry strength and low shrinkage - lyocell's production process is simpler and quicker than viscose's. It is estimated that, from start to finish, the lyocell process takes three hours compared with over 40 hours for viscose.
Both Courtaulds and Lenzing developed their processes for making lyocell from wood pulp on technology processes licensed from Akzo, the Dutch chemicals company. Patent rights to lyocell are claimed by both Courtaulds and Lenzing, tying up global development plans in legal battles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Courtaulds was the first to produce lyocell staple fibre commercially, and is still the only commercial-scale producer. The company has put hundreds of millions of pounds into the fibre, which it calls Tencel, in the hope that it will provide the

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lenzing and Courtaulds boost Chinese investments (1995)

Lenzing and Courtaulds, Europe's two largest synthetic fibre manufacturers, are to boost their investments in China. Courtaulds is already looking at investing US$180m in a plant to make 50 000 tonne of Tencel fibre in China for local and regional textile mills. A final decision on location is expected by the end of 1996.

The company has already announced plans to expand total Tencel capacity at its Grimsby, UK, and Mobile, US, sites to 75 000 tonne/year by 1997.

Lenzing has obtained a 'large order' to modernise a viscose fibre plant in India. Plans are also afoot to expand the capacity of South Pacific Viscose, Lenzing's Indonesian subsidiary in Purwakarta, Java, from 75 000 tonne/year of viscose to 110 000 tonne/year by 1997. Lenzing's investment manager Mick Stempel described the project as a 'cash cow'.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tencel Demand exceeds Supply: Courtaulds goes ahead in Europe (1994)

COURTAULDS HAS confirmed it is planning to build a commercial-scale plant in Europe to produce Tencel, its new cellulosic synthetic fibre. Plans are contingent on approval for the long-planned merger of its European viscose and acrylic staple fibre businesses with those of Hoechst.

Two sites are under evaluation for the plant, Courtaulds' own site at Grimsby, UK, where production was piloted, and Hoechst's Kelheim site, near Munich, Germany. Despite reports in the UK press that a decision on the new plant is imminent, a Courtaulds spokesman confirmed last week that board approval is some months away.
An investment of around £80m ($119m) is envisaged. Capacity will depend on final discussions, but is expected to be around 20 000 tonne/year. An onstream date of 1996 is targeted, but will depend on the timing of the board approval.
The first commercial-scale plant came onstream at Mobile, Alabama, in mid-1992, with a capacity of 18 000 tonne/year. A second plant at the site, to raise capacity to 43 000 tonne/year, is due for completion in mid-1995. The UK pilot unit continues to operate, producing around 1500 tonne/year. Together the plants supply Japan, where the Tencel market is most developed, the US and Europe.
Courtaulds reports a very high market acceptance for Tencel, with demand outstripping current capacity. 'We should be in an easier position to develop the market once the new US capacity comes onstream,' the spokesman said.

04 April 1994 [Source: ICB]

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lyocell is to be tested in Japan (1996)

Lenzing Lyocell fibre patent revoked by EPO (1996)

This is an update: the earlier abstract being replaced by the complete article as it now appears on the web.

The Appeals Board of the European Patent Office (EPO) has ruled that a Europe-wide patent - one of a number of patents applied to the manufacture of lyocell solvent spun cellulosic fibre - which was previously obtained by Lenzing, is invalid. No right of appeal is being given to the judgement.
Litigation to negate the patent was initiated by Courtaulds in September 1994. The patent was revoked on the grounds that the method of manufacture was 'obvious'.
Lenzing said other patents covering advances in lyocell technology are not affected and that the EPO decision will not affect the start of lyocell production facilities in Burgenland, Austria.
The cellulosic fibre is sold by Courtaulds under the trade name Tencel. Courtaulds deputy ceo Gordon Campbell commented: 'We are pleased with the result, which completely vindicates our position. However, we strongly believe that both Courtaulds and Lenzing should now put this issue behind them.'
Lenzing is still awaiting the outcome of its US appeal which will be heard at the end of 1996.

Anon., Eur. Chem. News, vol. 65, no. 1716, 13-19 May 1996, p. 8

This patent litigation was quite a big issue in the 90's and this is the first time it has made an appearance in this blog.  Here's a 1998 summary of the issue:

Lenzing obtained a patent in the USA for a lyocell process, some aspects of which had been operated by Courtaulds for many years, and indeed were used in production at Courtaulds Tencel® plant in Mobile. Courtaulds naturally objected, and applied for summary dismissal of both the US and the subsequent European patent. In Europe, the Munich court would not allow the Lenzing patent to be dismissed summarily and the case went to trial. Courtaulds won, and Lenzing's European patent was disallowed with no right of appeal. 

In the USA, the Lenzing patent was summarily dismissed, but Lenzing appealed successfully, winning the right to another costly trial. At this point the two companies reached a settlement out of court. The lyocell patent estates of both companies were pooled, to be available royalty-free to both companies. It is perhaps worth noting that the settlement only covered patented technology. There was to be no sharing of "know-how" gained in the operation of the process, which at the time, had only been commercialized by Courtaulds.

From "Regenerated Cellulose Fibres"

Lenzing loses Lyocell Judgement (1996)

Courtaulds has obtained a Summary Judgement in the US courts over its alleged breach of Lenzing's US patent in respect of the one process step in the manufacture of lyocell fibre, which also sells under the Courtaulds brand name of Tencel.
The Judge held Lenzing's patent to be invalid and that Courtaulds should be awarded costs.
Lenzing said the Judge rejected its patent for failure to disclose the best mode of the invention. The best mode requirement is unique to the US-patent law. Lenzing intends to appeal against the US decision.
This decision is unrelated to the pending litigation before the European Patent Office in Munich and the UK. In May 1994, Akzo and Caurtaulds' opposition against the European Patent was rejected by the European Patent Office, against which both Courtaulds and Akzo have appealed.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Always a dedicated follower of fashion (1992)

Here's a comprehensive review of the Tencel project as of December 92 from Robin Davison at ICB.  Not sure about the title though - is it ironic?

"Courtaulds' opportunity to re-dedicate itself to a business in which it has been a world leader throughout most of this century - the chemical manipulation of cellulose."

"Courtaulds' strategy has been to re-position its own cellulosics business while maintaining lowest cost production. It has increased the proportion of higher-value added segments such as nonwovens, absorbent wipes and sanitary products, which have more predictable and stable demand patterns and reduce the sensitivity to the whims of the fashion world". (Ed. referring to pre-Tencel cellulosics strategy)


With the launch of Tencel - the first new textile fibre in 30 years - Courtaulds could re-dedicate itself to the cellulosic fibres business. Setting a new trend, Tencel is cost-efficient to produce and boasts remarkable mechanical properties - it also bears the fashionable environmentally friendly tag.
By Robin Davison
THE FORMAL opening of Courtaulds first commercial-scale plant for the new manmade cellulosic fibre Tencel provided a wider platform than just to launch the first new textile fibre in 30 years. The opening ceremony also represented Courtaulds' opportunity to re-dedicate itself to a business in which it has been a world leader throughout most of this century - the chemical manipulation of cellulose - and allay any fears that cellulosic fibres may not feature in the company's long-term strategy. As chief executive Sipko Huismans observes, Courtaulds was in cellulosic fibres at the beginning of this century and Tencel assures its position at the end of the century - 'and there are not many companies which can say that'.
The $85m Tencel plant, with a capacity of 20 000 tonne/year, is located beside Courtaulds' existing viscose rayon plant at Axis, outside Mobile, Alabama. Commissioning took place during the summer, and Courtaulds' cellulosics ceo David Duthie expects it to be operating at 100% capacity before the end of the year.
The project's second phase - an expansion of 20 000-25 000 tonne/year at Axis

Friday, November 23, 2012

Courtaulds/Lenzing in Lyocell fibre patent dispute (1994)

25 July 1994 [Source: ICB]

A PATENT dispute between rival fibre manufacturers Courtaulds of the UK and Lenzing of Austria casts a cloud over commercialisation of the new generation of cellulosic fibre materials. Lenzing, which last month revealed plans to scale up its Lyocell fibre (ECN 4 July), has instigated legal proceedings in the US against Courtaulds, which has been producing its Tencel fibre at a commercial-scale plant in Alabama since 1992.

Lenzing, which has been granted both a US and a European patent on one aspect of the solvent-spun (cellulose in amine oxide) manufacturing process, is alleging infringement of its US patent by Courtaulds. Courtaulds argues that both patents are invalid in that they relate to an item of equipment that has been in the public domain since the 1970s.
Courtaulds is seeking to have Lenzing's action in a New York court dismissed by summary judgement and to have the patent declared invalid. In Europe, a second higher instance decision on Lenzing's European patent is expected later this year. A first instance decision was awarded in Lenzing's favour this May, despite opposition from Courtaulds and Akzo. A Courtaulds spokeswoman said the company was confident that Lenzing's European patent will in due course be declared invalid and that the company has strong defences to any claim for infringement.
Courtaulds has filed 44 patents of its own relating to Tencel, the

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tencel: Patent disputes, Postured take-overs and Enthusiasm. (1995)

This is from European Chemical News and is based on an interview with David Wilkinson in September 1995.

Notable points:
  • Strategy is to concentrate on lyocell rather than viscose.
  • "We envisage the viscose business will stay about the same size as today until in the longer term we will see some decline ... in favour of Tencel"
  • Courtaulds has 5-year lead on Lenzing and will complete its 3rd plant as Lenzing start up the first.
  • "It is most unlikely that any producer [of lyocell] could move into the Far East ahead of us."
  • Courtaulds might be interested in a stake in Lenzing but "such a deal would be likely to fall foul of the EU and US competition legislation."
  • Lenzing stress the benefits of integrated pulp production, but Courtaulds say selling the SAICCOR pulp operation does not disadvantage Tencel.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tencel cigarette filters from Filtrona and Philip Morris. (1995)

This is the first page of an article written for Technical Textiles International (Aug 95) by Dick Shepherd, R&D Director of Filtrona, following the successful development of fibrillated lyocell paper for ultra low tar cigarette filters.  The first commercial papers were made by Ivan Gbur of J R Crompton and Balz Miller of Schoeller and Hoesch.

There was a second cigarette filter project running simultaneously with Philip Morris who, after we introduced them to the concept, were interested in using lightly hydroentangled Tencel staple nonwovens to simulate a tow to replace acetate tow.  The key players at PM were Bill Edwards and Navin Gautam

A third development involving annular high pressure water jets to fibrillate Tencel tow directly never got off the ground because the existing Tencel machines were incapable of making the tow denier required for filter tip use economically.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Courtaulds eyes a controlling stake in Lenzing (1995)

This clip from European Chemical News, 4th September 1995 is the first to surface suggesting that Courtaulds might be interested in taking control of Lenzing.  I seem to remember this was viewed as likely to create a monopoly in lyocell technology and tampon fibre and was frowned on by the authorities. (Clearly something changed between 1995 and 2004 when the monopoly was created in the reverse direction.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Zimmer Alceru and Carbacell along with Akzo Newcell to substitute cotton (1997)

The German plant contractor Zimmer has developed two cellulosic fibres processes that overcome the environmental problems with viscose production. The Alceru process is designed for new installations and produces a high tenacity fibre which will compete with the Lyocell fibres produced by Courtaulds and Lenzing. The process is described in detail. The Carbacell process is aimed at the revamp of old viscose plants, and this process is also described in detail. Akzo Nobel and Courtaulds have announced that they are to carry out a feasibility study for a 5,000tpy Lyocell cellulosic fibre plant in Europe. The market potential for cellulosic fibres is considerable with cotton production unable to meet the increase in demand. Estimates indicate cellulosic fibres could substitute 7.5% of cotton demand by 2010.

Anon: Eur. Chem. News, vol. 67, no. 1760, 14-20 Apr. 1997, p. 27 (P)

Carbacell was the CS2-free cellulose carbamate route to low environmental impact rayon fibres which could be made on viscose equipment.  It required a major commitment by a pulp producer to make the cellulose carbamate pulp and this did not materialise.  Alceru was piloted at TITK and acquired by Lenzing.  Newcell - the lyocell filament process - remains to be commercialised.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Concurrent start for two UK Tencel lines (1996)

AS A result of rapid growth in demand, Courtaulds has revised investment plans for its third Tencel unit at Grimsby, UK. Both production lines will start up simultaneously rather than in two phases.

The plant will come onstream in mid-1997 and be fully operational by Q1 1998. Capacity is set at 42 000 tonne/year. Investment costs will amount to £120m ($186m).

The company's second unit at Mobile, Alabama, US, is currently being commissioned.

Capacity has increased from 18 000 tonne/year to 43 000 tonne/year. Further expansion is planned over the next 18 months to 55 000 tonne/year as the company incorporates new technology.

Courtaulds has said there is sufficient demand to use all of this new capacity immediately.

Demand is accelerating and Tencel will move from loss into profit this year, Courtaulds claimed.

Lenzing decide on heavily subsidised Burgenland site for Lyocell. (1995)

This small piece in Knitting International June 1995 was the first cutting with hard news of the Lenzing decision on scaling up their lyocell process.  Courtaulds Tencel had been in commercial production since 1990 in the UK and 1992 in the USA, not since '94 as suggested here.

A similar article in Chemical Fibres International at the same date added that the Lenzing plant would come on stream in 2 halves, with the first 10,000 tonnes scheduled for '97.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tencel Leather Substitute in Shoe Materials (1995)

We could see that the surface structure of the first hydroentangled Tencel nonwovens and papers was similar to the fibrillar structure of natural leather and so commenced a collaboration with the Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association to identify any potential for Tencel nonwovens in leather substitutes.  
The information below is from SATRA observing that a variety of applications appeared possible with key properties such as tear and seam strength, absorbency and ability to mould to the foot being noted.  "It could be highly suitable for making lining, insock and, with a coating, even shoe uppers"
It would be interesting to know if any such applications have materialised in the intervening 17 years!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Asian Consortium Stalking Lenzing (1995)

The Bank of Austria is not pleased with Lenzing's indecision regarding the location of the planned $196 million lyocell plant.

Cash-strapped Lenzing could well use the capital resources which would flow from the acquisition to support lyocell

A deal [with Formosa Chemical Fibres Corporation] would be a grave irritation to Courtaulds....  could allow FCFC to revive plans for a rayon fibre complex in the USA.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Patents postings changed

Patents were being Posted but I've now decided to add links to patents on a Tab at the top of the Home page.  

Lyocell: Reversing the decline of Cellulosics (1994)

In fact the reversal (i.e. man-made cellulosics capacity ceasing to decline) began later that decade with investments in large viscose rayon plants in Asia.  This article in Technical Textiles International (first page only here) was the start of the promotion of Courtaulds Lyocell for technical applications and is notable for the details of the dissolution process.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Courtaulds Lyocell for Technical Textiles (1995)

The print media go relatively quiet on fashion applications for Tencel in 1995 but the launch of Courtaulds Lyocell for technical applications at TechTextil in June that year keeps the fibre in the trade press.  A wide range of applications were under development and begin to get mentioned.  Here printers blankets, artificial suedes, abrasive substrates, flame retardant clothing, workwear, protective clothing, Ventile fabrics, shoe construction, high opacity papers, filler retention aids, coating bases, filter papers, map papers, cigarette filters, absorbtive textiles and composite reinforcements appear.  The mysterious technical breakthrough which should raise the Mobile plant's productivity by 30% also gets an airing.  Did Mobile ever get to 55,000 tpy under Courtaulds?  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fibrillated Tencel for Biodegradable Ultra-low Tar Cigarette Filters (1994)

Tencel for technical textiles and nonwovens was launched as Courtaulds Lyocell  in 94-95 to avoid the Tencel brand being contaminated with unfashionable end-uses such as this one.  At that time the board also felt that with the Lenzing Lyocell brand being used for the forthcoming Lenzing launch, the use of a similar name from Courtaulds would be a good tactic.

From Technical Textiles International - December 94 (Peter Lennox-Kerr)

There were many such applications where the fibrillation of Tencel could add value to nonwovens, special papers and technical textiles, and many of these had been discovered in the late 80's when the basic fibre was easy to fibrillate and these markets were to be the first target for Tencel.  However the early 90's decision to switch emphasis to fashion apparel meant the process and new production lines were optimised to minimise fibrillation, and the basic "Courtaulds Lyocell" fibre became harder to fibrillate for technical applications.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Courtaulds Shares Slump: Tencel won't be as lucrative as hoped (1997)

So it doesn't wrinkle, it's tough and it's as soft as silk. But can Courtaulds' "wonder-fibre", Tencel, revitalise the chemical group's flagging fortunes? Courtaulds shares have slumped to 270p, less than 50 per cent of their value five years ago, and 7.5p down on the day on the back of poor first-half results. Pre-tax profits in the six months to September were £62m, 5 per cent down on last year.

Tencel, touted as "the Lycra for the millennium", is unlikely to prove as lucrative as Courtaulds once hoped. First, the wonder-fibre is used in jeans - M&S is among the notable Tencel converts - and demand in the denim market is relatively weak. Second, Courtaulds, once the sole Tencel supplier, is now beginning to face competition. Nevertheless, prospects for Tencel are still good. Courtaulds reckons that Tencel will account for 20 per cent of all turnover within five years. Currently, it accounts for about 3 per cent of sales.

Even if Tencel fulfils all expectations, it is unlikely to be sufficient to transform Courtaulds into a high-growth organisation. The company needs to look elsewhere if it is to turn things around. Prospects at its coatings & sealants division, which account for about half of turnover, look good. Courtaulds has an entrenched position in market niches, such as aircraft coatings. Polymer products, which saw a moderate rise in profits this half, also look strong.

The real problem is that around one-fifth of revenues still come from viscose and acrylic. Not only are these mature markets, but competition, particularly in viscose, is vigorous. What is more, raw material prices for viscose and acrylic are notoriously volatile.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Increasing Demand for Man-made Cellulosic Fibres predicted: "The Cellulosics Gap" (1997)

Lenzing's recent paper (1) featuring the "Cellulosics Gap"  prompted me to look for the 1997 paper on the subject.  I've so far failed to find it but the following is from the 1999 paper "Whither Cellulosics" and includes the key reference to Tim Johnson's market research for Courtaulds. 

One of the most thorough recent expositions of the outlook for cellulosic fibres was compiled by T F N Johnson of Courtaulds (2). He argued that continued population growth and increased per capita fibre use will result in a demand for a further 70 million tonnes of fibres by 2050. With the potential for further cotton yield or hectarage increases now limited, and with the synthetics still looking unlikely to provide the comfort element of future textiles, Johnson postulates a "Cellulosics Gap" of up to 20 million tonnes.

He points out that for 60 years, cotton production has grown almost entirely due to increased fibre yield per hectare. Land area under cotton cultivation has been constant for that period, and pressure for the same top quality agricultural land will increase due to the need to feed increased population.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

TENCEL: £400m invested so far, 14% ROS estimated (1997)

Tencel, the new fibre on which Courtaulds has lavished £400m so far, including £60m last year, has at last broken into profit. The group is coy about how profitable it is, but David Ingles at James Capel reckons it could have chipped in £14m on just under £100m sales last year. That augurs well for the third production line due on stream in Grimsby later this year and the next Tencel plant, due to be built in Korea, Indonesia or Singapore.

Viscose remains the dog of the portfolio, producing a small loss last year. It will not show real improvement until the industry cuts more capacity.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tencel now at Rocha, Costelloe, Gaultier, M&S, Next and Jaeger (1997)

This 1997 article contains the by now over-familiar fashion-related promos but mentions Pat White and features Sandy McLennan singing the praises of Tencel/Nylon blends.  It is also the first I've seen which combines high-end fashion stories with the message "Tencel is cheap to produce".

Imagine a fabric that drapes beautifully, feels soft as silk, is hard-wearing enough to be thrown into the washing machine, is crease- resistant and environment-friendly. Too good to be true? No. Such a fabric really exists. Its name is Tencel.
Tencel is the first new fibre to be launched for more than 30 years. Scientists have been working on the fibre at Courtaulds for the past 20 years under the leadership of researcher Pat White, who was awarded an MBE last year for his trouble. But fashion designers have had access to it only since the beginning of the Nineties, when designers including Helen Storey and Katharine Hamnett tried it out in their jeans ranges. This spring, it has hit Marks & Spencer, Next and Jaeger, not to mention the collections of such diverse designers as Paul Costelloe, John Rocha and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Tencel (not to be confused with Tactel, a form of nylon used in high-
performance sportswear and underwear) is cheap to produce, made, like viscose,

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tencel will be a mass market fibre, but... (1993)

Who said of Tencel "I think it will be a mass market fibre but not before the middle of the 21st century".  Read on to find out.

Lenzing v Courtaulds Filmtruder Judgement (1995)

908 F.Supp. 172 (1995)

COURTAULDS FIBERS, INC. and Courtaulds PLC, Defendants.

No. 93 Civ. 1588 (LLS).
United States District Court, S.D. New York.
November 28, 1995.
173*173 Brumbaugh, Graves, Donohue & Raymond, New York City (John D. Murnane, Arthur S. Tenser, of counsel), for plaintiff.
Cravath, Swaine & Moore, New York City (Alan J. Hruska, of counsel), for defendants.


STANTON, District Judge.
Lenzing Aktiengesellschaft ("Lenzing"), an Austrian corporation, sues Courtaulds Fibers, Inc., a Delaware corporation, and Courtaulds PLC, a British corporation with a controlling interest in Courtaulds Fibers, Inc. (collectively "Courtaulds"), alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 5,094,690 ("the '690 patent" or "Zikeli's patent"), which Lenzing owns.
Courtaulds moves for summary judgment that the '690 patent is invalid and unenforceable.


Zikeli's patent concerns a process patented in 1969 by Dee Lynn Johnson.[1]Johnson discovered that a natural polymer such as cellulose—e.g., wood pulp—could be dissolved in a solution of water and a chemical called a "tertiary amine oxide." Fibers for making nylon, polyester, and such materials may be spun from the resulting solution—a solution of cellulose in an "aqueous tertiary amine oxide."
In 1980, Neal Franks and Julianna Varga patented a particular method for dissolving the cellulose in the tertiary amine oxide solution.[2] The "Franks and Varga method" involves using a tertiary amine oxide called N-methylmorpholine N-oxide, or "NMMO." In that method cellulose, aqueous NMMO, and water are combined to make an undissolved mixture, or "suspension." Excess water in the suspension prevents the cellulose from dissolving into the aqueous NMMO. When the suspension is exposed to heat and reduced pressure, the excess water evaporates, 174*174 allowing the cellulose to dissolve into the aqueous NMMO.
On August 16, 1988, Stefan Zikeli, an employee of Lenzing, filed an application in the Austrian Patent Office for a patent on a process disclosing steps for carrying out the Franks and Varga method. He filed a corresponding application in the United States Patent and Trademark Office on August 4, 1989, claiming priority based on the filing in Austria, and was granted the '690 patent.
The scope of Zikeli's patented invention is limited by one independent claim and eight dependent claims. Claim 1, the independent claim upon which all the dependent claims directly or indirectly depend, claims:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Genencor and Courtaulds collaborate on enzyme treatment of Tencel (1996)

A reminder of how important enzyme finishing was to the early success of Tencel in apparel.  The enzymes dissolved the fibre "cuticle" and some amorphous cellulose to allow the fibrillar structure to be raised into a microfibre surface.

Following initial agreement in March 1995, an R and D collaboration between Genencor and Courtaulds Fibres to develop enzyme products to treat Courtaulds' lyocell fibre, Tencel, has been extended for two years. The companies aim to produce more distinctive and cost effective fabrics by exploiting the fibrillation qualities of these cellulosic fibres. Both companies will comarket Genencor enzymes to fabric processors all round the world.

 Anon., Eur. Chem. News, vol. 66, no. 1734, 30 Sept.-6 Oct. 1996, p. 14 (P)

Courtaulds ponders European Tencel site (1994)

Courtaulds has not yet reached a decision on the location of its Tencel solvent spun cellulosic staple fibre plant. A decision is expected before the end of the year. 

Four possible locations are undergoing a detailed feasibility study: two in continental Europe and two in the UK. The plant will have an initial capacity of 25 000 tonne/year.
Courtaulds' first $90m commercial-sized Tencel fibre plant in Alabama, US, was commissioned in June 1992. A second plant in the state cost $134m and is under construction. This will increase Courtaulds' Tencel capacity in the US from 18 000 tonne/year to 43 000 tonne/year.
Tencel's fibre properties have allowed it to be utilised in end uses not previously possible for man-made cellulosics. These include denim jeans, chambray shirts and reusable non-woven apparel.
Currently, Tencel is focused on high quality, exclusive apparel markets, but it is being developed for use in non-woven and industrial uses where its strength and ability to absorb moisture give it a competitive advantage.
Gordon Campbell, Courtaulds' director responsible for fibres, said: 'The decision to invest over $200m in two commercial scale plants in the US is extremely sound. The technology has taken us a decade to perfect, but our experience with the US unit makes us confident that now is the time to bring Tencel to Europe.'
A truly global project, R&D for the fibre was carried out in the UK, it was made commercially in the US, and the market was developed in Japan.
Courtaulds is said to have pioneered the commercial manufacture of solvent spun cellulose fibre. Tencel is the first entirely new textile fibre to be developed for nearly 20 years. Courtaulds claims its is the only commercial scale producer of the product.

07 January 1994 [Source: PCE]

Friday, November 2, 2012

All you need to know about Tencel (1989)

This is the most comprehensive 2-page overview of the Tencel project as it was at the end of 1988 thanks to the journalistic skills of Stan Davies and an interview with Barrie March and Alan Jones for Textile Horizons.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Environmental Impact of Hemp, Tencel and recycled PET fibres in Apparel (1996)

Interesting early observations which, now that the "medium term" has arrived, seem accurate.  Not sure about the longer term though: cellulose doesn't seem to be getting "scarce", and its hard to forget the old adage about hemp in apparel ("Its remarkable how little hemp it takes to ruin a good garment")

Three fibre sources, hemp, Tencel and polyester derived from recycling polyethylene terephthalate (PET) beverage bottles, are compared with respect to their suitability for use in garments and their ecological impact. In the short term, recycled polyester will be the most attractive option. In the medium term, Tencel (lyocell) cellulosic fibres will be highly successful, but hemp may be most successful in the long term as raw materials for the other products become more scarce. Hemp processing is simple and the plant grows well, but it may be difficult to limit tetrahydrocannabinol levels. Tencel has very desirable characteristics but is currently expensive to produce. 

 Drury K; Slater K., Text. Trends India, vol. 39, no. 3, June 1996, pp 29-33