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Rival Lift Manufacturers Sue Each Other For Patent Infringement

Competing lift manufacturers Stertil-Koni USA and Rotary Lift/the Vehicle Service Group (VSG) have filed patent infringement and misleading advertising suits against each other.

Stertil-Koni was first with a complaint — filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland – Baltimore division — filed July 30 accusing VSG of infringing upon a patent Stertil-Koni owns (the 865 patent) that it says was issued in June 2012. Stertil-Koni says the 865 patent covers the company’s Ecolift scissor lift products, which it has sold since March 2005.

According to its complaint, after Stertil-Koni adopted the allegedly unique trade dress of its Ecolift product, VSG made, advertised and sold a model EFX scissor lift that Stertil-Koni says has the same distinctive features as the allegedly unique Ecolift trade dress. Stertil-Koni further accuses VSG of copying Stertil-Koni’s copyrighted Ecolift brochures, as well as making false and misleading claims in performance comparison advertising.

Stertil-Koni wants the court to rule that VSG has infringed upon the 865 patent and be barred from further infringement. Stertil-Koni asks the court to award the company damages for the alleged infringement and the disgorgement by VSG of all profits it has derived from its allegedly unlawful acts.

Addressing Stertil-Koni’s suit, a representative from Rotary Lift/VSG said: “We are confident the EFX product does not infringe upon Stertil-Koni’s U.S. Patent #8,191,865 and plan to fully support all current customers’ products, fulfill all pending orders, and continue making the product commercially available for sale.”

Meanwhile, VSG filed a complaint of its own on Sept. 5 accusing Stertil-Koni of selling lifts — specifically model numbers ST 1075, ST 1082, ST 1100 and ST 1175 — that VSG claims incorporate technology covered by a patent (the 196 patent) that VSG owns. The patent in question was issued in January 2006, according to VSG.

Additionally, VSG accuses Stertil-Koni of competing unfairly in the marketplace by advertising that many of its lifts are “Made in the USA” when, according to VSG, they are not.

VSG wants the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana – New Albany division to find Stertil-Koni to have infringed upon the 196 patent, to stop Stertil-Koni from allegedly infringing upon the patent and to be barred from making “Made in the USA” claims about its lift products. VSG also wants to be awarded damages to compensate the company for Stertil-Koni’s alleged infringement and unfair competition.

“Our recent lawsuit against Stertil-Koni is unrelated to theirs and coincidental in its timing. It is an outcome of a commercial licensing agreement with another manufacturer requiring VSG to establish license agreements for the use of our ‘196 patent or take legal action against those who have not licensed the technology and are infringing on the patent (U.S. Patent 6,983,196),” a spokesperson for VSG/Rotary Lift said in a prepared statement. “This commercial agreement preceded Stertil Koni’s actions against VSG and was in place long before their lawsuit was filed. In addition, VSG’s lawsuit takes exception to Stertil-Koni’s ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ marketing practices which we believe to be false, misleading and overstated.”

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