ArcelorMittal continues legal fight over high-strength steel

2014-01-08T12:45:00Z 2014-01-08T16:20:32Z ArcelorMittal continues legal fight over high-strength steelJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
January 08, 2014 12:45 pm  • 

ArcelorMittal is appealing a recent court ruling that three rival steelmakers did not violate its patent for a special type of aluminum-coated high-strength steel that is made in Northwest Indiana for the auto industry.

A Delaware judge ruled in December that AK Steel, Severstal Dearborn Inc. and Wheeling-Nisshin Inc. did not infringe upon its patent for Usibor, a thin, lightweight steel that helps automakers reduce the vehicle weight while still meeting safety standards. ArcelorMittal filed notice of appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to defend its patent, which covers aluminum pre-coated, hot-rolled or cold-rolled steel sold under the brand name Usibor.

"ArcelorMittal disagrees with the recent district court's decision to hold our Usibor-AS patent invalid," said spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford. "We strongly believe in the legal merit of our case, and ArcelorMittal has already appealed the court's decision. In the interim, we are taking proactive measures to protect our interests during this process."

A French company that became part of the ArcelorMittal conglomerate first developed boron steel with an aluminum-based coating that is applied after rolling the sheet to its final thickness. In the United States, ArcelorMittal makes it at its huge integrated steel mills in Northwest Indiana and sells it to automakers under the Usibor trademark. The metal forms a number of car parts, including bumper beams, door impact reinforcements and roof cross members.

In 2010, two ArcelorMittal French units sued the three U.S. steelmakers, alleging they infringed on its Usibor patent.

U.S. District Judge Sue J. Robinson ruled in October their advanced high-strength steels did not tread on ArcelorMittal's trademark. She concluded the ArcelorMittal patent was invalid because the steelmaker attempted to broaden it by reissuing it more than two years after it was granted, which is prohibited.

"There can be no doubt that ArcelorMittal pursued its reissue patent as an intentional strategy to avoid the consequences of this court's narrow claim construction, with the ultimate goal of capturing more acts of infringement under the broadening scope of new dependent claim 23 of the RE153 patent," she wrote in her ruling.

In December, Robinson clarified her ruling meant that AK Steel, Severstal Dearborn Inc. and Wheeling-Nisshin Inc. had not violated the patent.

ArcelorMittal plans to continue to press its case through the legal system, four years after it was initially filed, Holdford said.

"ArcelorMittal continues to contend that its Usibor-AS patent applies to the domestic production of steel, steel parts or vehicles containing the Usibor-AS technology," she said. "Additionally, we contend that the importation into the United States of steel, steel parts or vehicles containing the infringing steel may also be subject to legal action."

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