Chicago-area construction material suppliers that hold patents for a curtain wall system used in high-rise construction projects are suing a rival, claiming it created a knock-off of the system based on a former employee’s knowledge and put the system to use on construction projects.

Three companies with common ownership, Talon Wall Holdings LLC, Entekk Group Ltd., and Chicago Heights Glass Inc., filed the lawsuit in federal court in Chicago in December. 

The lawsuit alleges that Joel J. Phelps, former vice president of business development for Chicago Heights Glass, left the company in June 2020 and took with him confidential information related to Talon Wall Systems. He was hired by Reflection Wall & Window, the defendant in the lawsuit.

It did not respond to requests for comment.

“Phelps’ unique knowledge of Talon Wall’s most confidential information—in particular, the effectiveness of the Talon Wall and certain non-public trade system improvements to the Talon Wall System—was one of the primary reasons that Phelps was hired by Reflection Window & Wall," said the lawsuit.

Talon Wall Holdings owns all the patents for its system, which the lawsuit states was invented by Chicago Heights Glass President Kurt LeVan. It attaches prefabricated glass and aluminum panels to a building’s floor slabs, according to a press release. 

The plaintiffs also allege that Phelps did not return materials to Chicago Heights Glass that he was obligated to return under a separation agreement.

The curtain wall system developed by Reflection Window & Wall, called the U8000 and UWALL, are knock-offs that infringe on several patents held by Talon Wall, according to the court complaint.

The lawsuit describes the Talon Wall System as an “engineered, unitized and factory-glazed curtain wall system.”

It states that the exterior aluminum and glass wall system accommodates complex geometry in all three axes and is simpler to fabricate and install. Among other benefits, the company claims, the system does not require layout or pre-setting of unit anchors at mounting locations to floor slabs.

In addition to Phelps and Reflection Window & Wall, the lawsuit names several contractors that have allegedly used the U8000 or UWALL in their projects as defendants.

The lawsuit cites an unspecified number of entities to which RWW has allegedly agreed to supply its systems in the future.

According to the plaintiffs, contracts to construct exterior façade walls for commercial medium and high-rise structures are frequently worth $5 million to $50 million each.