When crude-oil prices began their ascent early in the new millennium and spiked at more than $160 per barrel in 2008, it set off a rush toward engine washes to keep fuel burn low. This engine-wash business has been especially good for two global MROs, Lufthansa Technik, which has done 90,000 washes for 60 airlines over the years, and EcoServices, a joint venture of ST Engineering and Pratt & Whitney, which has done more than 80,000 washes for 229 customers and continues doing more than 10,000 a year.
Now a U.S. District Court in California has ruled that Aero-Mark-owned Certified Aviation Services, which uses Lufthansa Technik’s Cyclean engine-wash system, infringed two EcoServices patents: one for a method of washing objects such as turbine compressors; and the other for automating detection and control of high-pressure water washes.
The jury found CAS’s infringement of the first method patent was willful and denied CAS’s attempt to invalidate the second automation patent’s validity. It ordered CAS to pay EcoServices nearly $2 million. Decisions on pre- and post-trial interest and injunctive relief are pending.
EcoServices President William Welch was pleased with the verdict and said he welcomed discussions with companies that wanted to use his patents under license agreements.
CAS is the exclusive North American provider of Lufthansa Technik Cyclean engine washes. Mark Lee, chairman of CAS-owner Aero-Mark, says, “This lawsuit has not yet been legally concluded and there are issues that remain for the court to decide, and these issues could ultimately be reviewed and considered on appeal.” Lee also stresses that, “The performance of CAS’s line services to our customers is not affected or interrupted in any way.”
Lufthansa Technik notes that it was not a party to the law suit and will thus not comment on the dispute. An LHT spokesperson reiterated Lee’s points, the lawsuit has not been concluded, issues remain for the court to decide and these issues could be reviewed and considered on appeal.
Early in July, Lufthansa Technik announced it has developed a new process to wash engines with dry ice and has filed several patent applications for it. Next year, Lufthansa Technik hopes to offer Cyclean Dry Ice alongside its water-based Cyclean washes.