A gasoline tank cap made by Tesma International Inc. for one of the Big 3 infringed on patents held by Stant Corp., a jury in Indianapolis has decided.
At issue were features of the gas cap that allow parts of it to break away in an accident while still keeping the filler neck sealed to prevent fuel from leaking.
'Stant is a very innovative company, and gas caps are more complex than most people realize,' said attorney Donald Knebel of Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg. 'In this case, Stant was able to prove that it made important contributions to gas cap technology, and that the patents were valid.'
Stant is the largest supplier of gasoline caps to automakers and the aftermarket in North America. The company ranked No. 59 on the Automotive News list of top original-equipment suppliers to North America, with sales of $607 million in 1996.
How much the court loss will cost Tesma hasn't been decided. A hearing to determine the award will be held later. But because the jury found that Tesma willfully infringed on Stant's patents, the damage award can be tripled under law.
Tesma disagrees with the verdict and may appeal, said Anthony Dobranowski, Tesma's chief financial officer.
The publicly traded company is based in Concord, Ontario. Tesma formerly was a wholly owned unit of Magna International Inc.; Magna still retains control of Tesma.
Tesma continues to make the gas cap even though it lost the lawsuit, Dobranowski said.
He would not identify the automaker who uses the cap, but said Tesma started work on the cap's design in 1993.
It is the only gas cap project the company had in North America. Tesma had built a new plant to produce the gas cap, along with other components such as oil caps and coolant reservoirs, Dobranowski said.
He said Tesma also has a division in Austria that makes caps for the European market.