Clean Up America Accused of Dirty Dealing

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Parker West International, LLC (PWI) is a Santa Rosa, California company that provides environmentally-compliant industrial and commercial cleaning services.  PWI cleans nasty hydrocarbon and metallic contaminants, including oil, grease, heavy metals, diesel fuels and latex paints, using its patented “closed loop” waste treatment system (all contained in the pretty truck pictured above and shown in the drawing below). 

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U.S. Patent No. 5,979,012 (‘012 patent) is directed to a mobile waste treatment system including a wastewater treatment unit and a steam cleaning unit.  The system, housed in a truck or trailer, sprays steam onto a contaminated surface.  The steam condenses and emulsifies the surface contaminants, which are vacuumed up in the form of contaminated water and pumped to the steam cleaning unit on the truck and then piped to the wastewater treatment unit.  

The wastewater treatment unit churns the contaminated water with a clay-based flocculant (a chemical that cause particles suspended in solution to come out as flakes).  The sludge that separates out is deposited on a porous cloth on draining trays, and the drained water is re-used in the steam cleaning unit.  An important advantage of this system is that it provides on-site separation of solid and liquid waste, which facilitates environmentally-friendly disposal.

Last month PWI sued Clean Up America, Inc. (CUA), a Virginia-based cleaning equipment maker, in federal court in San Francisco for alleged infringement of the ‘012 patent, breach of contract, fraud and interference with business advantage.  According to the complaint (parkerwestcomplaint.pdf), in 2003 PWI granted CUA a non-exclusive license to use and sell PWI’s patented technology.  CUA was obligated to pay a royalty for such use and sale.  The agreement also gave PWI certain rights to sell its clay-based flocculants to CUA customers.

PWI alleges that CUA owes royalties on products and services it sold under the agreement and that CUA continues to sell and offer products and services that incorporate the technology of the ‘012 patent even though the agreement expired in 2006.  PWI is seeking damages and a court order enjoining CUA from engaging in infringing activity.

The fraud claim asserts, without any factual support, that CUA intentionally misrepresented its intent to pay PWI for use of the patented technology.  The federal rules of civil procedure require that a fraud claim be pleaded with particularity, so this claim could get tossed if PWI doesn’t amend its complaint to provide more detail.

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.