3M has filed its third patent infringement lawsuit in Germany in 16 months in regard to its dental technology.
3M Co. sued German dental firm Dental Direkt GmbH over the weekend. The lawsuit, which was filed in Dusseldorf, Germany, said Dental Direkt was not licensed to use 3M’s tooth-color-matching technology, which is employed worldwide by dentists and laboratories making ceramic dental restorations.
Officials of Dental Direkt, which is based in Spenge, Germany, could not be reached for comment.
The lawsuit said Dental Direkt illegally used 3M’s technology when making zirconia CAD/CAM block products that are sold under the brand names DD Bio Z and DD Bio ZX translucent. The company also is accused of illegally using 3M’s technology in coloring liquids sold under the brands DD Bio Z color classic and DD Bio ZX monolith Zero.
3M’s dental division, called 3M ESPE, is considered an industry leader in the world of ceramic dental implants, crowns and fillings. It has worked to improve colorations and dramatically speed up the time in which dental labs and dentists can make crowns and other implants for patients.
In August, 3M unveiled a new oral scanner designed to quickly create three-dimensional images of patients’ teeth so realistic-looking implants could be made more quickly.
3M officials said the Maplewood-based conglomerate licenses its technologies to much of the dental industry and remains open to “licensing this technology to other interested parties.”
In 2013, 3M filed two patent infringement lawsuits against dental-product firms in Dusseldorf.
The lawsuit against Metoxit AG alleged infringement regarding coloring liquids or zirconia blocks sold under the brands Z-CAD FlowPen, Z-CAD Liquid HD and Z-CAD. 3M has settled the other lawsuit, against White Peaks Dental Systems GmbH & Co. KG.
3M officials have said in the past they must enforce the patents 3M receives to protect its growing annual research and development effort.
In a meeting with analysts last week, CEO Inge Thulin noted that 3M is committed to growing its dental and health care business — one of its fastest-growing segments — and strongly committed to increasing its R&D commitments.
He said 3M will increase its R&D spending on new products from 5.6 percent of sales in 2013 to 6 percent of annual sales by 2017. As a result, R&D spending will jump from $1.5 billion in 2013 to about $1.9 billion by 2017.