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Quantachrome Instruments of Boynton Beach, Fla., has won a six-year federal court fight with an international competitor who’d claimed that Quantachrome’s key product — a high-tech measuring device — had infringed its patents. Senior U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez Jr. of Fort Lauderdale ruled on the case last month. The decision means that Quantachrome can continue to manufacture its product, a measuring device called a gas pycnometer. Likewise, because no appeal is planned, the ruling extinguishes the claim of Micromeritics Corp., a competitor whose U.S. headquarters is in Norcross, Ga., for millions of dollars in damages. “It would have been a heavy economic blow if my client had lost,” said Quantachrome’s attorney, Michael J. Higer. “We have now agreed to settle our claims for costs and fees. They will pay our costs. They won’t appeal.” Higer is a partner with Mintz Truppman Clein & Higer of North Miami. He was co-counsel with Robert M. Schwartz, a partner at Fort Lauderdale’s Ruden McClosky Smith Schuster & Russell. Albert S. Anderson, a Norcross, Ga. solo practitioner who represents Micromeritics, did not return a telephone call before deadline. A pycnometer calculates volume by measuring gas displacement. They are used to measure paints, ceramics, catalysts and powdered metals and minerals. Quantachrome has manufactured pycnometers and other highly specialized “particle characterization” instruments for more than 30 years. The devices measure and analyze surfaces, porous qualities and density. In 1996, Micromeritics sent Quantachrome what has been characterized in court documents as a “threatening letter” asserting that Quantachrome was infringing on one of its technology patents. Quantachrome went to federal court, and requested a declaratory judgment that Micromeritics’ patent was invalid. Micromeritics later asserted a second patent infringement claim regarding the gas pycnometer, and it is that claim that was the principal basis for the litigation that followed. “The essence of Quantachrome’s invalidity contention was that the invention claimed by Micromeritics was old technology undeserving of the patent that Micromeritics applied for in 1989 and was issued in 1991,” Higer said. In May 2000, Judge Gonzalez ruled against Quantachrome following a bench trial. But Quantachrome appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., and in July 2001, Gonzalez’s ruling was reversed for failing to consider certain evidence that supported Quantachrome’s case. Ultimately, after being ordered to rehear the case, Gonzalez “determined that the concept that was the basis for their patent had been done before and was old,” Higer said. Specifically, the judge held that Quantachrome’s Ultrapycnometer 1000 does not infringe Micromeritics patent. “We are pleased that Micromeritics can no longer usurp the public domain pycnometer technology to create an unfair competitive advantage for themselves,” said Quantachrome president Scott Lowell.

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