Molins contests US patents judgment: Six-year battle continues

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The Independent Online
MOLINS is appealing against last November's decision by the US District Court of Delaware to overrule its patent infringement claim against two US companies, writes John Shepherd.

The legal wrangle has been running for more than six years. It concerns patents on Flexible Manufacturing Systems - computer control of several machine tools.

Peter Greenwood, managing director of Molins, best- known as a maker of cigarette-rolling machinery, said the issue was irritating and the judgment was unjust.

A full, but undisclosed, provision against the potential impact of a final adverse judicial decision has been made.

Molins also declined to quantify the financial benefits of a favourable ruling. However, an independent assessment in 1990 put the potential earnings stream from the FMS patent at dollars 90m ( pounds 60m) over a 13-year period.

The company yesterday announced results for 1992 showing a 29 per cent profit increase before tax to pounds 18.3m, which included a pounds 3.4m ( pounds 3.1m) pension credit.

Molins' shares climbed 19p to 479p on the results. The dividend total is being raised 9.8 per cent to 14p per share.

Virtually all the profits advance was in the core tobacco machinery division, which lifted its operating surplus from pounds 14.5m to pounds 18.6m. Profits from packaging machinery were almost static at pounds 3.1m, against pounds 3m last time.

Net debt fell from pounds 16.5m to pounds 14.7m, and from 13.1 to 10.3 per cent of shareholders' funds. Those numbers should receive a further fillip this year, with Molins set to net pounds 10m from the surplus pounds 38m arising on its two pension schemes.