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3M counters ‘sabotage’ charge with ‘blackmail’ lawsuit

3M has come out swinging against a U.K. firm that has launched a lawsuit against the St. Paul company for allegedly sabotaging a technology it acquired from that firm.

In a counter lawsuit the diversified conglomerate filed in a state court in New York, 3M said that Porton Group and its CEO Harvey Boulter have launched a campaign of “blackmail” and “extortion” to get a $30 million payment, Bloomberg reports.

The legal back-and-forth has its roots in a 2007 transaction. That’s when 3M bought a potential breakthrough device from Acolyte, a U.K. company owned by the Porton Group and a subsidiary of the U.K. Ministry of Defence named Ploughshare Innovations. The device called BacLite used a special fluorescent light to detect the antibiotic-resistant superbug called the MRSA.

The Porton Group had achieved 95 percent success in detecting MRSA in European clinical trials, but when 3M performed the trials, they were only 50 percent effective. The attorneys for the Porton Group alleged in mid-May that 3M botched the trial by keeping the bacteria below body temperature. They added that the reason 3M sabotaged the trial was because it was developing a more expensive molecular test to detect MRSA internally called the Simplexa and wanted it to be the first to reach the market.

Now, the Porton Group and Ploughshare Innovations are seeking $67 million in damages from 3M in a lawsuit that began last week in the U.K.

3M has said that the BacLite technology was not commercially viable, which led the company to abandon efforts to sell it in 2008.

In its lawsuit against Porton and Boulter, 3M alleged the following in the complaint, according to Bloomberg:

“Instead of awaiting the outcome of the pending litigation, defendants and their investors have engaged in an unlawful campaign to blackmail 3M into paying $30 million in order to avoid the continuation of the campaign.”

The complaint added that “defendants seek to publicly defame 3M and its chairman/CEO.” George W. Buckley is the chairman and chief executive officer of the company.

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