Black & Decker Snakelight sheds a rival Universal must stop producing Pretzl Lite


July 20, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Black & Decker Corp.'s Snakelight will no longer face competition from the Pretzl Lite marketed by an Owings Mills firm, under an agreement between the two companies disclosed yesterday.

The Owings Mills company, Universal Security Instruments Inc., also agreed to pay Black & Decker $300,000 for infringing on its patents for the Snakelight flexible flashlight.

Black & Decker has sued several manufacturers and importers marketing flashlights similar to the Snakelight -- a huge hit with consumers since its introduction in November 1994 and the best-selling product in the company's history.

The agreement came a week after a federal court in Virginia granted Black & Decker's motion for a summary judgment on one of three infringement claims.

In a statement, Universal Security Instruments said, "it was in its best interest to avoid future protracted and expensive litigation as well as continued potential liabilities with Black & Decker, which has substantially greater resources."

Black & Decker's patent attorney, Raymond Niro Jr., said the company "is very happy with the result. Universal has acknowledged the validity of the patents. It acknowledged that Pretzl Lite's design infringed [on] the company's patents," Niro said.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton on July 12 ruled that Pretzl Lite's original design violated the patented ball-and-socket design of the Snakelight.

Before the settlement, Black & Decker sought penalties against Universal for two additional infringements on patented features of the Snakelight, a light attached to a pliable tube that can be twisted and secured to poles and other items.

Those two additional patents cover the anchor at the end of the flashlight's sleeve and the flashlight's overall proportion.

In a separate case last month, a federal jury ruled that GSL Engineering Ltd.'s Grip Light infringed on the patent for the ball-and-socket design.

The jury also ordered GSL, a Hong Kong company, to pay Black & Decker $2.17 million.

Black & Decker, the Towson-based maker of power tools, household appliances and accessories, is suing GSL on the other design patents and has a separate infringement lawsuit filed against Coleman Equipment Co.

Under the terms of the settlement announced yesterday, Universal Security agreed to stop manufacturing or selling its Pretzl Lite.

But the company, which makes security, video and telecommunications products, will be able to sell its remaining inventory of the flashlights.

Niro would not say how much Black & Decker was seeking in the case.

But, the lawyer added, "Black & Decker got other benefits. [Universal Security] agreed to turn over the mold for the product to be destroyed."

Pub Date: 7/20/96

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