Fibre manufacturers Lenzing and Courtaulds have begun discussions to resolve their differences without further recourse to the American courts.
Lenzing and Courtaulds are to settle out of court over the Tencel patent row - despite a US court decision in Lenzing's favour. Lenzing fought the action over alleged infringement of a patent for production of what it calls lyocell fibres.
The Federal Court of Appeal in Washington DC reversed an earlier summary decision of the New York court in November 1995, which held the patent invalid for failure to disclose the 'best mode' of the invention. Lenzing claimed infringement of the patent by Courtaulds at its lyocell plant in Mobile, Alabama, and the infringement suit in the New York court is now set to continue.
Lenzing, which produces lyocell under the brand name Lenzing Lyocell, sought damages and an injunction against Courtaulds in the New York district court action. Courtaulds denied infringements and called the patent invalid. Lenzing said the decision accentuated the importance of the Lenzing patent and emphasised its contribution to commercialise the lyocell process.
A Lenzing spokeswoman said negotiations had taken place between Lenzing and Courtaulds. 'We still want to continue discussions, but we must review the court decision,' she said. 'No firm date has been set for a resumption of the New York district court case, but we intend to get the issue resolved.'
David Wilkinson, Courtaulds' director responsible for fibres, said discussion at an advanced stage would enable both companies to get on without the fear of invoking patents against each other. He said Courtaulds and Lenzing companies could then defend actions against third parties if they infringed patent agreements for the manufacture of lyocell.
Wilkinson added: 'I am confident the discussions will produce an amicable solution. I have no reason to believe that Lenzing does not have the same objective.'
Lyocell, a fibre used in clothing, is spun from a solution of cellulose in an organic solvent and water. The Lenzing patent relates to the preparation of the spinning solution.