A Baltimore inventor has been cleared of charges his newest machine infringed on the patent of a machine he designed more than a decade ago.
Lou Sardella, who recently invented a box-making machine component called the Extend-O-Feed, was cleared Wednesday of charges he infringed on a patent for a similar machine, called Rotofeed, held by the Wm. C. Staley Machinery Corp. of Phoenix, Md.
Ironically, Mr. Sardella says he designed the original Rotofeed machines when he worked for Staley in the 1970s.
The ruling in the federal civil suit by Staley ends a 16-month legal battle between Staley and Mr. Sardella's 6-year-old Sun Automation Inc., a Baltimore-based assembler of box-making machines.
After more than four weeks of testimony and arguments, the jury rejected Staley's request for nearly $13 million in damages.
Staley's attorney, Dan Chemers, said that he and his clients were "considering our options" and would decide by early January whether to appeal.
During more than four days of testimony, Mr. Sardella claimed that the Sun Extend-O-Feed machine was superior to Staley's machine because it did not crush the cardboard as much.
Both feeders use pressure to push or pull cardboard into pressing and cutting machines. Too much pressure can crush the corrugation, which reduces the strength of the board, Mr. Sardella said.
Mr. Sardella said he's had success selling his machines because they allow boxes to be stacked higher. Sun Automation has grown from 12 employees in 1986 to 32 employees today and has sold a total of about 500 of the $50,000 machines worldwide, he said.
Staley, which once had as many as 100 employees, sold all its assets to a New Jersey-based company last year. The remaining firm is now a holding company called Leading Edge Technology Corp.