Surfactants, or surface active agents, are chemicals with interesting and valuable properties. They are used in no-stick frying pans, water-proofing/stain-proofing, cosmetics, lubricants, and fire-fighting materials. They have even been experimentally used as blood substitutes. Their uses are obviously diverse and the revenues from surfactants are in the many billions of dollars annually.
A particular family of surfactants, perfluorocarbons are colourless, odourless, non-toxic, non-corrosive, non-flammable, non-polar, extremely stable and unreactive gases, liquids and solids. They have been both a source of enormous revenue for 3M and also a source of liability for 3M.
At issue in a newly filed patent infringement case brought by 3M against Du Pont is whether chemical giant Du Pont’s revenues from such products have their origins in 3M’s patented invention. The case was initially assigned to U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum (D. Minn.) who recused himself and was replaced by Chief Judge Michael Davis.