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DuPont Sues Hutchinson on Fire-Blocking Material Sold to Airbus

June 17, 2022, 4:27 PM

DuPont de Nemours Inc. alleges that thermal acoustic blankets Hutchinson SA sells to Airbus infringe two patents for a laminate material that prevents fires outside an aircraft from penetrating the fuselage, according to a federal lawsuit in Delaware.

DuPont subsidiaries DuPont Safety & Construction Inc. and Dupont Specialty Products USA LLC say Hutchinson’s product, Terflame 29, infringes patents that cover DuPont’s competing Nomex XF, according to a complaint filed Thursday in the US District Court for the District of Delaware.

DuPont says it has supplied the aerospace industry with a variety of products for nearly 50 years and developed its laminate in response to the industry’s “need for a new generation of thermal acoustic blankets.” The blankets “protect airline passengers and crew from fire and flame propagation, and their laminates must be flexible, thin, and lightweight to meet Federal Aviation Administration regulations,” according to the suit.

Hutchinson, based in France, says its materials “can withstand flames at 1,100°C”—that’s 2,012 degrees Fahrenheit—“for 15 minutes in the event of an engine fire.”

DuPont says testing of Hutchinson’s Terflame 29 shows it has at least five bonded layers, including a silicone-based adhesive layer that can maintain its bond to a polymeric film layer and to an inorganic refractory layer within a temperature range of 75 to 200 degrees Celsius (167 to 392 degrees Fahrenheit). A second layer of polymeric film can withstand a temperature of at least 200 degrees Celsius for at least 10 minutes, the suit says.

Both of the patents cover composite flame barrier laminate for a thermal and acoustic insulation blanket. Bloomberg Law estimates they’ll expire in April 2030.

In 2013, DuPont sued Clearlake Capital Group’s Unifrax I LLC alleging infringement of one of the patents. In May 2017, after years of litigation, Unifrax was found to have infringed the patent, whose validity the jury upheld. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed that ruling, which resulted in damages and an injunction for the life of the patent.

The appeals court said the “primary dispute in this case concerns the ‘inorganic refractory layer,’ which generally consists of ‘vermiculite platelets’ that come from the natural mineral vermiculite.” Judge Jimmie V. Reyna, writing for the majority, said the jury’s verdict would stand because the district court correctly construed “100% by weight” and substantial evidence supported the verdict.

Dissenting, Judge Kathleen McDonald O’Malley said the ruling was based on “an erroneous construction of ‘100% by weight’ that ignores the plain meaning of ‘100%’ and introduces more ambiguity than it resolves.” She said the construction “led the jury down the wrong path en route to its infringement verdict” and should be vacated, and the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s bid for a noninfringement judgment should be reversed.

Cause of Action: Patent infringement.

Relief: Damages for infringement, including any profits gained through infringement and pre- and post-judgment interest; enhanced damages for willful infringement; permanent injunction; post-verdict and post-judgment accounting for any infringement not otherwise covered by damages award and injunctive relief; and attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses.

Response: Hutchinson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Attorneys: DuPont is represented by Crowell & Moring LLP and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP.

The case is DuPont Safety & Constr. Inc. v. Hutchinson SA, D. Del., No. 22-cv-797, complaint filed 6/16/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Yasiejko in Wilmington, Del., at cyasiejko@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com