In a game of dueling lawsuits, Thule and Yakima at least managed to agree on one thing -- a preliminary injunction that will prevent Yakima from shipping existing Platinum and Blacktop dual-side opening cargo boxes after Dec. 15, 2003.
While Thule and other press reports are positioning this as a win for Thule, Jim Clark, president of Watermark which owns the Yakima brand, feels otherwise.
"We agreed to the injunction so that we would not create a situation that would interrupt the sales of a very popular line of cargo boxes to our retailers during the holiday selling season," Jim Clark told SNEWSÂ®.
The fact is Yakima has been using the strut in question in its cargo boxes since 1997, according to Watermark's Clark. What is at issue is that now Yakima is using the same strut in dual-opening boxes and Thule is alleging the operation infringes on its design patent.
Fred Clark, president of Thule, told SNEWS that the patent it holds "allows for the strut to have sufficient force to lift the lid open in both directions (passenger/driver) and sufficient force to help close the box and yet when fully closed there is minimum force exerted on the box itself."
Thule filed suit on Oct. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, according to Yakima, and at that time also filed for a temporary restraining order against the sale of the cargo boxes in question. That motion was denied by the court.
Yakima also countersued Thule on Nov. 15, according to Jim Clark, alleging that Thule in fact copied Yakima's strut design, although he does admit there is no patent on that strut.
There is a court date set for Feb. 6, 2004, to decide if there is, in fact, any infringement on patents at all. If it turns out the court rules in Thule's favor, then another date will likely be set to determine damages.
SNEWS View: Both Clarks appear quite confident in their respective positions and claims. And, paging through SNEWS archives and through past court docs, Thule certainly holds the edge in terms of court decisions in its favor. Thule was clearly confident enough to issue a press release but really all the injunction means is that after Dec. 15, retailers will begin seeing those same boxes from Yakima being shipped with a slightly different strut design mechanism.