European regulator probes Honeywell, DuPont on new car refrigerant

DuPont Co, the largest US chemicals company and Honeywell International Inc, are being probed by European Union antitrust regulators over whether their agreement over a new refrigerant for car air-conditioning systems restricts competition.

Both the US companies had entered into an agreement for jointly developing, licensing and producing a new updated environmental standards refrigerant known as 1234yf, which would replace an existing refrigerant R134a since it does not meet new European Union environmental-protection standards.

Based on complaints received from competitors, the European Commission (EC) is investigating whether the DuPont-Honeywell agreement prevent rivals from also developing new refrigerants that meet with the new environmental standards.

The Brussels-based regulator is also probing whether Honeywell is abusing its dominant position in the production of the new refrigerant, and deceived authorities during the evaluation of 1234yf, which was endorsed by a car industry group.

The EC will investigate whether Honeywell did not disclose patents and patent applications when the refrigerant was assessed and endorsed by the Society of Automobile Engineers between 2007 and 2009, and then failed to grant licenses on fair and reasonable terms.

''The commission will examine the case as a matter of priority . This investigation highlights the importance of ensuring'' that agreements involving intellectual property ''contribute to innovation rather than holding it back,'' the EC said in a statement.