Patent on light upheld again Black & Decker awarded $3.7 million from Coleman Co.

Import from China is target

Defendant's Job Pro is deemed a copy of popular SnakeLight

August 27, 1996|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Black & Decker Corp. has won its second federal jury award in the battle to protect its popular SnakeLight flexible flashlight from rival products.

After a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., the jury late Friday ordered Coleman Co. Inc. to pay Black & Decker $3.7 million for infringing on two SnakeLight patents, said Raymond P. Niro, a patent attorney for the Towson-based company.

The jury concluded that two versions of Coleman's Job Pro flashlight violated patents covering the proportion and design of the SnakeLight. The $3.7 million award was based on a calculation of more than $13 for every one of Coleman's 270,000 flashlights sold -- an amount that exceeds Coleman's $10 price, Niro said. The Job Pro flashlight is imported from China.

Niro called the jury's award a "major blow" to copycat imports. He said that if copycat products were allowed to survive, companies would have less motivation to push for breakthroughs in research and development.

"If they let people like Coleman get away with this, innovation ends today," he said.

Officials and attorneys for Golden, Colo.-based Coleman Co. would not comment yesterday.

After the trial before U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Ellis III, the jury said it could not reach decisions on a third version of Coleman's flashlight.

The verdict came two months after a jury in another patent-infringement trial, also in the Alexandria court, awarded Black & Decker $2.17 million from GSL Engineering Ltd., a Hong Kong company. GSL markets the Grip Light, another flexible flashlight.

The SnakeLight is a light attached to a pliable tube that can be twisted and secured to poles and other items.

Last month, Universal Security Instruments Inc. of Owings Mills agreed to stop making its Pretzl Lite and agreed to pay Black & Decker $300,000 for infringing on the SnakeLight patents.

Black & Decker also is suing GSL on unresolved patent issues. That case is expected to come to trial Sept. 30.

Black & Decker plans to sue Coleman again over the third version of its Job Pro flashlight, and plans to seek an injunction against a Florida company that is marketing a flexible flashlight, Niro said.

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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