West Coast venture in patents row September 11, 2002, New Zealand Herald
Lawyers acting for a Sydney plastics manufacturer have invoked its worldwide
patents in an attempt to stop a proposed Hokitika plastics venture.
A fraud investigation is being called for after claims by Armacel that the
Hokitika initiative is planning to use technology it does not own. The claim
has been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.
Two of the key figures in the Hokitika project, Ian Pitts and Tim Redmond,
both of Sydney, worked for Armacel managing director and the
patent-registered inventor Frank Matich in the mid-1990s.
They later worked for another company that admitted in January last year to
using Armacel plastics technology without a licence.
Armacel lawyers say they suspect FT Manufacturing is exploiting technology
protected by the patents.
They have given FT 14 days to prove it has not infringed the patents.
If an infringement is proved, Armacel could prevent the manufacture and
export of products.
The Westland council has loaned FT Manufacturing $500,000 to build a
prototype machine, and promised to build a factory costing $2.2 million.
It is understood some West Coast businessmen have also sunk more than $1.5
million into the company.
Councillor Maureen Pugh has referred the matter to the Serious Fraud Office
to investigate whether FT Manufacturing misled the council. Westland Mayor
John Drylie said he had not heard from the FT principals and knew nothing
about the claim.
Last week a company closely linked to some of those associated with FT
Manufacturing was wound up in Sydney owing millions of dollars. Criminal
charges may follow.
The Hokitika factory was linked to the Church of Scientology, and licensed
as a World Institute of Scientology Enterprise training academy.
Matich, a former Australian Grand Prix champion, said the plastic vacuum
moulding process was his invention, and was held by exclusive patents in
every major world market. It won the Australian Stock Exchange 2000 award
for the best new technology and intellectual property.
FT has kept the location of its prototype machine in Sydney secret, because
of concerns others "may wish to steal our highly valuable technology".
Matich said it appeared from all the technical information provided by FT
that it was his technology - essentially involving the application of a
tough plastic skin to the likes of helmets, surfboards, and chilly bins.
Each patent registered about 30 elements of the process.
FT would have to be able to say there was not one element of similarity
derived from the original technology being used, he said.
According to Australian Patents Office documents, Matich discovered the
technology in 1992. Pitts was his lab assistant at the time.
The FT Manufacturing patent application was lodged in New Zealand last
November and December, when the company first arrived on the West Coast,
seeking funding. It is at least three years away from being considered by
the Patents Office.
In 1994, the Armacel technology was sub-licensed to Headway Helmets. Pitts
and Redmond were involved with Headway and signed lifetime confidentiality
The following year they both left to work for Valuca, Redmond as a director,
which admitted to the Australian Patents Office last year to using the
Armacel inventions without a licence.
Ron of that ilk.
Thanks a bunch! I knew that there was a previous issue with a
Scientologist-owned plastics factory in NZ, but could not remember
enough to to a decent Google search.
The patent issue reminded me of the Robotic Parking Garage in
Take the corporate resume Robotic submitted for its joint bid with
Belcor, he says. Under "references" it lists five existing automatic
garages in Europe and Asia. The obvious inference, he says, is that
Haag designed and built those garages. But he did not, as Haag now
concedes. His former company merely provided the steel.
Looking back, Haag says, Belgiovine clearly plotted from the beginning
to fabricate complaints against Robotic, fire it, then steal its
As evidence, he points to a letter Belgiovine sent another potential
customer last year. Drawings attached to the letter were made to look
like they had been drafted by Belcor, not Robotic. In fact, Belgiovine
took credit for the entire Hoboken project.