Dow Agro in legal skirmish over canola oil

January 14, 2010

Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences LLC has sued Cooper Industries Plc in an effort to clarify its rights to make a canola-based fluid used in electrical transformers.

Dow Agro, a division of Dow Chemical Co., the biggest U.S. chemical maker, filed the complaint Wednesday in federal court in Indianapolis.

Dow wants a court ruling that says it doesn’t infringe on 10 patents owned by Cooper for using plant-based oils in electrical equipment, or that the patents are invalid.

Dow Chemical said it is planning to sell a canola-oil-based fluid this quarter. It’s among companies building factories that use plant-based ingredients to replace petrochemicals such as propylene, an oil derivative, as hydrocarbon costs and consumer demand rise. Dow’s fluid uses “canola oil developed and supported by the oil seeds business” of Dow Agro.

Wilmington, Del.-based Dow said it contacted Cooper in 2008 and 2009, seeking a pledge that it wouldn’t be sued for patent infringement once it entered the market for transformer oils. Cooper rejected that request and instead pointed out it had sued another company over the same patents in a case that ended in a settlement.

In a June 12 letter, Cooper said it wanted to “formally put Dow on notice that Cooper will vigorously defend its rights should Dow attempt to make products covered by one or more of Cooper’s patents.”

The suit names Houston-based Cooper Industries, the maker of Halo lighting fixtures and Crescent wrenches, and its Waukesha, Wisc.-based Cooper Power Systems. An official with the company didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.


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