Mad Rock, Climb X settle legal battle

A nearly 15-month legal tussle between climbing brands Mad Rock and Climb X has reached a settlement with each side claiming a win. SNEWS has the latest details and background.
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A nearly 15-month legal tussle between climbing brands Mad Rock and Climb X has reached a settlement with each side claiming a win.

The settlement, which was accepted by the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Nov. 29, 2011, dismisses Mad Rock’s claims against Climb X that included allegations of patent infringement, trademark infringement, common law trademark infringement, false advertising, trade/libel disparagement, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition and conspiracy.

In exchange, Climb X’s insurance carrier Oregon Mutual will pay $150,000 of Mad Rock and its parent company's Nelson Sports Inc.’s legal fees. And Climb X will make certain statements of fact on its website, although those statements admit no guilt to the charges above.

The feud between the two brands began when Climb X founder and manager Joe Garland left Mad Rock (www.madrockclimbing.com), citing internal differences. (Click here to read the Jan. 13., 2010, SNEWS story.)

A subsequent press release announced the launch of Climb X (www.climbxgear.com), but created confusion in the industry, according to Mad Rock officials. (Click here to read the Feb. 5, 2010, SNEWS analysis of the press release.)

Garland started Climb X in the same Chinese factory Mad Rock had just left for a new factory in Vietnam. In September 2010, Mad Rock filed its lawsuit with the above charges, claiming $2 million in damages. (Click here to read the Sept. 20, 2010, SNEWS story on the lawsuit filing.) According to court documents, the court dismissed in March 2011 the patent infringement charge, but the other charges such as copyright infringement were still scheduled for trial in fall 2011.

Mad Rock marketing director Kenny Suh told SNEWS the company ultimately did not want to push the case to trial because it would have had to spend a lot of money on legal expenses, bringing in experts to prove its case. Mad Rock still considers the ordeal a win because the settlement produced statement of facts from Climb X.

Those statements of facts, which are to be posted on Climb X’s website's “About Us” page for six months, per the agreement, include:

>> “Garland was never an officer, shareholder or director of Nelson Sports.”

>> “Neither Climb X nor Climb X Gear LLC has ever been affiliated in any way to Nelson or Mad Rock.”

>> “Young Chu (Mad Rock’s president) was the primary designer of the Mad Rock products. Garland along with other staff of Nelson had input on design and colors of the Mad Rock products."

Climb X also agreed to cease using the product names “Drifter,” “Nomad,” “Asylum,” “Mad Monkey,” and “Monkey,” some of which both sides had used and Mad Rock claimed rights to. The settlement goes into effect after the current version of Climb X's 2012 catalog.

Garland told SNEWS the case is a win for Climb X because the major claims were dismissed. “In the long term, things will play out,” he said, with "two brands competing" on different products, pricing and customer service.

--David Clucas

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