December 15, 2004 Wednesday Home Edition
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Washington --- A U.S. Patent Office examiner has declared that key patents for a new Caterpillar Inc. diesel engine infringe on ideas previously patented by an Alpharetta inventor and are therefore invalid.
The action, which Caterpillar has two months to appeal, awards Clyde Bryant of Alpharetta the first round in his battle with the giant heavy equipment manufacturer.
If the declaration, known as an "office action," is not overturned, Caterpillar will lose the patents.
Bryant, a 77-year-old retired Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chemist, challenged the two patents in a petition filed with the Patent Office in October.
He argued that the patents, one of which won a national Inventor of the Year award this year for two Caterpillar engineers, were based on ideas he patented in 2001.
Caterpillar based the development of its ACERT diesel engine largely on the challenged inventions.
Company officials have said Caterpillar, headquartered in Peoria, Ill., spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the ACERT engine, which achieves unprecedented fuel efficiency and reduces emissions of air pollutants.
Bryant's patent and the two awarded to Caterpillar describe systems for controlling the flow of fuel and air into internal combustion engines in ways that make them run more efficiently.
After reviewing the Caterpillar patents and Bryant's petition, examiner Thomas Moulis rejected almost all of Caterpillar's claims. He said agency records show Bryant's patent was not considered when applications for the two Caterpillar patents were being reviewed.