Delta patent trial to start Nov. 14

ALEXANDRIA, VA. — A jury trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 14 in the patent infringement suit in which Masco Corp. of Indiana alleges competitor Price Pfister copied a fauced made by Delta Faucet, a division of Masco.

The trial will be held in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria; both sides in the case requested a jury trial. The court, which set the trial date Sept. 15, lived up to its reputation as the “rocket docket” for the relatively short time between Masco filing the complaint in June and the start of the trial.

In other developments in the case, a motion seeking a preliminary injunction stopping Price Pfister from selling a lavatory faucet that allegedly copies a product made by Delta was denied by a federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia Sept. 2.

Attorneys for Masco Corp. of Indiana filed for the preliminary injunction after a survey was conducted of plumbing contractors and consumers. The survey results showed that a substantial percentage in both groups was unable to distinguish between Delta’s Model 520 Series escutcheon faucet and Price Pfister’s Genesis Model 42, said Parker Bagley, one of the lead attorneys for Masco.

 

Leo Shapiro and Associates, a Chicago marketing research firm, conducted the survey of 100 plumbing contractors and 100 consumers in Los Angeles and Chicago in August, Bagley said. They were shown a Delta Model 520 Series faucet which was covered as they viewed four other single-handle faucets including the Price Pfister Genesis Model 42, faucets made by Moen and American Standard and a brand sold by Ace Hardware.

Of the plumbers surveyed, 48 identified the Price Pfister faucet as the same as the Delta product they had just viewed, Bagley said. Of all persons surveyed, 37% identified the Price Pfister product as the Delta faucet, he said.

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Commenting on the survey and decision to deny the preliminary injunction, Doug Martinez, vice president/marketing and sales for Price Pfister, said, “The record speaks for itself. They presented the survey in their motion and the motion was denied.”

Price Pfister received a design patent from the U.S. Patent Office July 19 for its Genesis Model 42, the product Masco accused of patent infringement, Martinez said. “I think this will be significant in our defense strategy,” he said, adding that being awarded the design patent shows that Price Pfister has followed the letter of the law. “We contended all along that the product was unique and different.”

Although the federal government issued the patent to Price Pfister, Bagley contends the company’s Genesis Model 42 product still infringes on the patent and trademark rights for the Delta Model 520 Series. The patent office examiner did not see a full representation of the Delta product before approving the Price Pfister patent or otherwise it would have been rejected, according to Bagley. “We believe issuing the patent (to Price Pfister) was a mistake,” he said.

Masco Corp. filed a patent infringement suit in June in U.S. District Court in Virginia alleging that competitor Price Pfister is selling a lavatory faucet copied from a product made by Delta.

Price Pfister introduced the Genesis Model 42 faucet in January. Delta alleges in its suit that Price Pfister’s product deliberately copies Delta’s successful, patented Model 520 Series escutcheon design first offered in 1990.

In response, Price Pfister has called the Masco Lawsuit groundless and contends that the Genesis lavatory escutcheon design is new and different from the Delta design.

Virginia federal court has dismissed a counter claim by Price Pfister accusing Delta of abuse of process. In the counter claim, Price Pfister alleged that Delta issued a press release concerning its patent infringement suit to injure Price Pfister rather than to announce the lawsuit, Bagley said.

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