The US government has launched an investigation against Chinese heavy machinery manufacturer Sany over patent infringement.
The probe launched by the US International Trade Commission (USITC) was based on a complaint filed by Wisconsin-based Manitowoc Cranes, on 12 June 2013, the USITC said in a statement.
The complaint alleges that Sany and its US subsidiary Sany America Inc imported and sold certain crawler cranes and components that infringe patents held by Manitowoc Cranes.
Manitowoc Cranes filed a lawsuit against Sany America alleging that its ex-crane engineer John Lanning passed on to Sany two innovative designs for a floating counterweight tray, which was invented by him while working at Manitowoc.
The lawsuit alleges that Lanning went to work for the Chinese company after it offered "a substantial salary increase."
Manitowoc had filed the design patents in April 2007 and January 2008 while Lanning was still working in the company, but joined Sany in January 2010.
Manitowoc further alleges that Lanning had signed a non-disclosure agreement in 2008 agreeing not to reveal trade secrets for five years or until the information had been made available to the public.
Manitowoc is seeking a permanent injunction that bans Sany from selling cranes with Manitowoc's patents.
Sany said that it rejects Manitowoc's allegations and will defend itself in Court. "Sany is proud of its industry-leading crane designs... we categorically reject the claims made by Manitowoc and stand fully behind our market-leading products, said, Xiang Wenbo, president of Sany Heavy Industry.
Based in Changsha, Hunan Province, Sany is the world's sixth-largest heavy equipment manufacturer.
It was founded in 1986 by Liang Wengen, who topped Forbes magazine's annual list of China's richest people in 2011.