Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Germantown inventor sues Clorox in patent case

Taylor says his modified bleach predates a similar Clorox product

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A Germantown inventor says he discovered the secret to keeping delicate whites white years ago, but now the country’s biggest bleach manufacturer is leaving him in the dark.

Lawnie Taylor filed a lawsuit against The Clorox Co. last week to prove that its UltimateCare Premium Bleach is just like his 2004 patented formula for GLEE, a liquid chlorine bleach that removes stains without damaging clothing.

Taylor, a physicist who is a retired senior engineer at the U.S. Department of Energy, said he and his lawyer spent several months in licensing and royalty talks with Clorox after the product launched in May 2006. When those talks ended three or four months later, Taylor said he decided a new course of action was needed.

‘‘We wrote very gentle letters, that we’d like to collaborate, work out some kind of licensing deal,” Taylor said last week. ‘‘At first they seemed a little receptive, but then they pulled back.”

His company, LHTaylor Associates Inc., filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Clorox in U.S. District Court in Tyler, Texas, on Aug. 14, according to the lawsuit. In the suit, LHTaylor Associates asked to be awarded damages, attorney fees and the impounding and destruction of all Clorox products in violation of Taylor’s patents.

Clorox spokesman Dan Staublin said Monday that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Taylor invented GLEE in a laboratory in his laundry room and started advertising the product in 2003, he said. He was awarded his first of three patents for the discovery in 2004, the same year he began selling GLEE at retailers.

In a 2004 interview with The Gazette, Taylor said, ‘‘It’s kind of amazing. Big multibillion-dollar companies with all their research capabilities and laboratories could not find the solution that a small business could find.”

GLEE improves on standard chlorine bleach by adding a chemical compound to make the solution less acidic, resulting in less damage to fabrics and increased cleaning power, according to the patent.

Clorox did not contact Taylor when the company launched its product, he said. The two products are ‘‘identical,” Taylor wrote in an e-mail to The Gazette. Both are chlorine bleaches with the same strength based on the same technology, he wrote.

LHTaylor Associates entered into a licensing agreement with the James Austin Co. of Mars, Pa., to produce and sell GLEE later this year.

Taylor’s legal battle has the support of the Professional Inventors Alliance USA, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates for independent inventors.

In a March 2007 press release titled, ‘‘Here It Is, Again — David and Goliath,” the group voices its support for the Germantown inventor and describes GLEE as ‘‘...the first major development of [chlorine] bleach in almost 100 years and one which promises to change the bleach industry, significantly.”

Taylor said he’s confident that the court will feel the same way.

‘‘I have the case on a contingency fee basis” in which Taylor pays legal fees only if he wins, he said.

Taylor’s attorney, Anthony G. Simon of Simon Passanante P.C. in St. Louis, declined to comment.