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ITC Rules on Patent Infringement Claims

Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 5:23 p.m., EDT

Patent rulingThe U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has ruled in the favor of Applica Consumer Products Inc., of Miramar, Fla., in one of its patent infringement claims for its LitterMaid-brand self-cleaning litter boxes.

Six commissioners at the ITC unanimously voted in early April to affirm an administrative law judge’s preliminary findings that Lucky Litter LLC of Chicago, Ill., and OurPet’s Co. of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, infringed on one of Applica’s patent claims. Both OurPet’s and Lucky Litter said they planned to appeal the ruling.

In its original claim, filed in December 2007, Applica alleged Lucky Litter’s self-cleaning litter boxes sold under the “ScoopFree” brand name and OurPet’s Co.’s self-cleaning litter boxes sold under the “SmartScoop” brand name infringed on several of its patent claims.

The ITC has determined both companies infringed on one of the patent claims. The commissioners also cleared the companies of other patent infringements alleged by Applica, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of home-appliance marketer and distributor Salton Inc.

The commission has issued a limited exclusion order, which prohibits the unlicensed importation of infringing self-cleaning litter boxes and components, including cartridges, which are manufactured abroad by or on behalf of, or imported by or on behalf of Lucky Litter LLC and OurPet’s Company.

The commission has also issued cease-and-desist orders against Lucky Litter LLC and OurPet’s Co, which prohibits them from importing, selling, marketing, advertising, distributing, offering for sale, transferring or soliciting U.S. agents or distributors for any of the covered products.

OurPet’s president and CEO Steven Tsengas said he was “disappointed” the commissioners upheld the one infringement claim, but noted that several other claims were dismissed. Tsengas said the company modified its SmartScoop litter box in January and is in the process of having the change certified that it does not infringe on the patent.

Both Tsengas and Lucky Litter spokeswoman Amy Underwood said their respective companies planned to appeal the ruling. Underwood added that the U.S. patent office is reviewing the patent in question, but declined to comment further on the issue.

Applica could not be immediately reached for comment. <HOME>

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