Nautilus sues rival Icon over Bowflex patent violation claims

The Nautilus Group has charged rival equipment maker Icon Health & Fitness with Bowflex patent infringement by Icon's Weider Crossbow machine, taking the complaint to court in a lawsuit filed last week.
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The Nautilus Group has charged rival equipment maker Icon Health & Fitness with Bowflex patent infringement by Icon's Weider Crossbow machine, taking the complaint to court in a lawsuit filed last week.

"We will absolutely defend our assets and patents as due course of our business," Nautilus President Kevin Lamar told SNEWS about the lawsuit after its filing.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 3 in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, claims the Logan, Utah-based, Icon company has violated two of Nautilus' patents in the Bowflex machine upon which the company, then known as Direct Focus, found its claim to fame and fortune.Â

The lawsuit charging Icon stole the technology states that the Crossbow incorporates structures corresponding to its patented Bowflex. It asks the court not only to hold Icon liable for infringing and to enjoin the company from further infringement, but also to award the Vancouver, Wash.-based, Nautilus (NYSE: NLS) damages incurred, as well as attorneys' fees, and that "damages be trebled in view of the willful and deliberate nature of the defendants' infringing conduct."

"This is merely an attempt to seek removal of a legal action we initiated against Nautilus Group this past September in Utah," said Brad Bearnson, Icon legal counsel, referring to a suit filled Aug. 30 in the Utah District Court. "The Utah action seeks a determination from the court that Icon products do not infringe the Nautilus Group patents or intellectual property.

"Nautilus chose not to respond to Icon's action until late November, and has now filed this action in an effort to seek removal of the action from Utah to Washington state," Bearnson added. "We are confident in our actions and will proceed on course."

In the Utah case filed Aug. 30, Icon lays out background that includes letters, allegations, patents, complaints and other claims that relate to its PowerFlex machine made for Gold's Gym, that equipment's advertisements (see SNEWS story on the PowerFlex from Nov. 4 for which Nautilus didn't answer phone calls or emails), plus Nautilus Group's claims about Bowflex construction and materials. In a legal answer by Nautilus to the court dated Nov. 13, Nautilus denied the claims and made counterclaims. On Dec. 6, a pre-trial conference was set for Jan. 22, 2003.

SNEWS View: Got all that? This feels a little like Who's on first, What's his name's on second, and I Don't Know's on third… and our heads are a-whirlin'. We have the pages of documents in front of us and are scratching our heads over the claims, allegations, letters and counterclaims, trying to make sense of them. We will. We promise. And we'll tell you about it when we do. Meanwhile, the bottom line? The Aug. 30 Icon suit against Nautilus, followed by the counter complaints by Nautilus Nov. 13, followed by this lawsuit by Nautilus against Icon on Dec. 3 are really good examples of making attorneys very happy.

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