January 2000 News
Ongoing enforcement efforts protect Micra® design
January, 2000, Portland, OR—One measure of the popularity of the Leatherman Micra is the apparent desire of other companies to make and sell illegal copies of the genuine article. However, President Clinton approved a General Exclusion Order effective October 31, 1999, which prohibits the importation of imitation Micras. The Exclusion Order is the result of a year-long investigation conducted by the International Trade Commission into the importation of infringing tools.
"The General Exclusion Order allows U.S. Customs to seize look-alike products at the borders," says Roger Bjorklund, Leatherman Tool Group's vice president of marketing. These imitation tools can confuse consumers who may think they are buying a genuine Leatherman product but are left with an inferior copy. According to Bjorklund, "This damages the reputation Leatherman Tool Group has built with its strict adherence to rigorous quality standards."
Leatherman staffers are visiting Customs offices in key ports of entry throughout the United States. Training sessions are being conducted so that Customs personnel know how to spot Micra copies that violate the Exclusion Order.
The Micra, which was introduced in 1996, is protected by 10 U.S. patents, including both "design" and "utility" patents. Leatherman is actively enforcing its patent rights in the Micra; assertion of the patents against several infringers has resulted in the filing of one patent infringement lawsuit thus far.
In both 1997 and 1998, Leatherman Tool Group discovered "knockoff" or imitation Micras being exhibited by offshore vendors at the National Hardware Show, which is the largest and most important trade show of the year in the hardware and home improvement industry. In both years, Leatherman obtained a seizure order from U.S. District Court; the order was carried out on the show floor by U.S. Marshals, accompanied by the company's legal advisors.
Leatherman Tool Group has been diligent in its efforts to protect its products against imitation. Since 1985, Leatherman has filed more than two dozen lawsuits and sent out hundreds of warning letters informing infringers of its patent and trademark rights. According to company president Tim Leatherman, his company intends to continue "vigorously enforcing our legal rights against sellers of knockoffs of Leatherman products."