Neuftec Limited, the proprietor of a new, highly successful technology producing
greener fuel (the original nano-particulate cerium oxide fuel catalyst previously
sold by Oxonica as Envirox), announced today that the High Court successfully
upheld Neuftec's license rights in the face of a claim brought by Oxonica Energy
Limited. Oxonica Energy is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oxonica
PLC, the Aim-listed Oxford University spin-out, chaired by former Dragon's
Den TV star Richard Farleigh. Since 2002 Envirox has represented approximately
95% of Oxonica PLC's sales.
In October 2006, Oxonica informed Neuftec it had produced an 'alternative'
to the patented Envirox formulation which would not be eligible for continued
royalty payments. Following Oxonica's failure to pay these royalty payments,
Neuftec terminated Oxonica's production and distribution rights and sought alternative
means to market this highly successful product. Oxonica commenced legal proceedings
against Neuftec in February 2007 in the High Court, originally seeking declarations
that Neuftec be prevented from competing with Oxonica and additionally that
sales of 'Envirox 2' were not caught by the terms of the Neuftec licence and
therefore should not trigger royalty payments by Oxonica.
Neuftec defended both assertions and counterclaimed for payment of royalties
due from Oxonica's sales of its alternative 'Envirox 2' formulation. Neuftec
also sought an audit of Oxonica's records relating to all Envirox sales and
payment of sums due. Oxonica subsequently dropped its challenge to Neuftec's
right to compete with Oxonica in the market place, but the dispute over the
patent rights and earlier royalty payments continued.
The trial was heard before Mr. Peter Prescott QC, Deputy Judge at the High
Court in London in June 2008 and judgment was issued today. In a 40 page judgment,
the judge ruled that "...royalties are payable in respect of any product,
process or use falling within the scope of any claim of the PCT application
as appended to the Licence Deed, and nothing else. Envirox 2 is a Licensed Product
as defined, and attracts royalties accordingly. The claim fails and the counterclaim
Ronen Hazarika, co-founder of Neuftec said,
"We are absolutely delighted that the court has found in our favour. It
has been an expensive and time-consuming battle but we now feel wholly vindicated.
When Oxonica's actions in trying to avoid paying substantial royalty payments
first came to light, we took the decision to fight this on a matter of principle
and ethics. If inventors of new and groundbreaking technology cannot rely on
their licencees and the licencees' business angels to honour agreements, innovation
is at risk. The emergence of new technologies would solely be in the hands of
large corporations. Protecting intellectual property rights is crucial to the
encouragement of advances in technology.
It is of some regret that at no time since the commencement of proceedings
did Oxonica make any attempt to settle this matter out of court despite Neuftec
being open and willing to such discussions. I imagine Oxonica's management will
be answerable to its shareholders over this whole affair."
Neuftec estimates that royalties owed amount to approximately GBP500,000 plus
legal and associated costs of around GBP1.3 million. Neuftec has instructed
a leading firm of forensic accountants to complete the audit of Oxonica's records
and to verify whether Neuftec is also entitled to a 25% share of Oxonica's profits
from Envirox and 'Envirox 2' plus a GBP1 million milestone payment as defined
by the Neuftec license. Neuftec intends to reclaim all sums due, together with
interest from Oxonica.
Neuftec is also now evaluating the prospect of filing fresh claims in the High
Court in relation to Oxonica's on-going sales of 'Envirox 2'. Neuftec filed
a separate patent infringement action against Oxonica in June 2008 relating
to sales of Envirox that infringe Neuftec's European patents. Oxonica has recently
confirmed that, contrary to its earlier undertakings, it has sold Envirox (originally
licensed from Neuftec) in Europe, post the termination of the licence agreement.