March 2001 News

Patent infringement suit settled

March, 2001, Portland, OR - A patent infringement lawsuit filed in Federal District Court last year against a California-based importer has been settled out of court, according to officers of Leatherman Tool Group, Inc.

"We've reached an agreement that recognizes and protects the patent rights associated with our designs," said Roger Bjorklund, Leatherman's vice president of marketing. He added, "This will also help protect consumers from being confused into purchasing similar, but inferior, products."

The original suit, filed in November 2000, accused Central Purchasing, Inc., dba Harbor Freight Tools, of marketing a small multi-purpose tool that infringes seven United States patents associated with Leatherman's best-selling Micra multi-tool. The "Gordon 9 Function Pocket Tool" was being imported by Central Purchasing from a supplier in Shanghai, China.

In the terms of the settlement agreement, Central Purchasing has agreed to pay compensatory damages for sales of the infringing tool, along with attorney fees and damages from sales of tools subject to an earlier agreement between the two companies. Additionally, Central Purchasing has stipulated that the patents held by Leatherman are valid, and the remaining inventory of the infringing Gordon tools has been returned to the supplier in China.

"We would rather not have to sue to protect our rights," said Leatherman Tool Group president Tim Leatherman, "but we are pleased with the resolution of this particular suit. I'm hopeful this action, along with US Customs' enforcement of the General Exclusion Order prohibiting the importing of imitation Micras, will allow us to focus on making quality tools instead of chasing companies knocking off our patented designs."

The Micra, which Leatherman Tool Group introduced in 1996, is protected by 10 U.S. patents, including both "design" and "utility" patents. The privately-held company was founded by Tim Leatherman and Steve Berliner in 1983.

Central Purchasing, Inc. is a mail-order retailer headquartered in Camarillo, California. Under the Harbor Freight name, they also operate 88 retail stores scattered across 20 states.