ROLLERBLADE, INC. TO SEEK PATENT ENFORCEMENT WITH U.S. INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION; INDUSTRY LEADER TAKES ACTION TO PROTECT INVESTMENT
/ADVANCE/ MINNETONKA, Minn., Feb. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Rollerblade, Inc., the creator of the Rollerblade brand of in-line skates, and the leader of the in-line skate industry, today announced that it has filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) to seek enforcement of two utility patents infringed upon by other in- line skate manufacturers and distributors. The two patents at issue have been widely utilized by Rollerblade competitors due to the significant performance and comfort benefits they provide. The complaint was filed with the ITC on Feb. 18, 1993. The 33 companies named in the suit are being notified by Rollerblade via certified mail. Rollerblade currently has approximately 185 issued and pending patents in the U.S. and other countries and is reviewing options for legal actions in other key markets. The ITC, which is an independent agency, rules on patent infringement cases involving importation of products into the U.S. It is estimated that as much as 95 percent of all in-line skate products sold in the U.S. that do not carry the Rollerblade brand name are manufactured in foreign countries and imported into the U.S. The majority of Rollerblade brand in-line skate products are assembled in Minneapolis. Rollerblade will not be seeking a temporary exclusion order from the ITC, an action that could force manufacturers charged in the complaint to immediately cease all shipments to the United States. Such an action could also cause inventory problems for retailers, and inconvenience for consumers, which Rollerblade does not wish to create. The companies named in the suit include: Canstar Sports USA, Inc.; Brookfield Athletic Co., Inc.; California Pro USA, Inc.; Maska U.S. Inc.; Exel Marketing, Inc.; First Team Sports, Inc.; Roller Derby Skate Corp.; Innovative Sports Systems, Inc.; Variflex, Inc.; National Sporting Goods Corp.; Risport International Corp.; Keys Fitness Products, Inc.; Wason International, Inc.; Scorpion Action Products; Maui & Sons; Canstar Sports Group, Inc.; Playmaker Co., Ltd.; Sport Maska Inc.; Hsin Kwo Industry Co., Ltd.; Meran S.R.L.; Good Men Associates, Inc.; Han Kai Co., Ltd.; Regal Enterprises Co., Ltd.; Yuh Jou Co., Ltd.; Amula's Enterprise Corp.; Roces RSL; Koflach Sportgerate Gesselschaft; Marco Skates; Speedent Corporation; Sol-Effect Ent. Co.; Pai Hung Sporting Goods Co., Ltd.; Far Great Plastic and European Sports Enterprise. "Given the widespread copying of our patented innovations, we have no choice but to take this action," said John F. Hetterick, president and chief executive officer of Rollerblade. "We want to send out a very clear message that we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our multi-million dollar investment in R&D, so that we can continue to introduce the top performing, highest quality in-line skating products on the market."
Ventilated Boot Utility Patent/Eccentric Spacer Utility Patent Overview
Patents in question include the ventilated boot utility patent and the eccentric spacer utility patent, two innovations introduced by Rollerblade in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The ventilated boot utility patent involves a feature that creates greater comfort for the skater through a design, where during skating, the ventilated boot, the free floating liner, and the skater's foot cooperate to create an air pumping action, drawing air into the boot and pushing air out of the boot. This feature has become a standard in in-line skate products, since Rollerblade first introduced it in early 1991. The eccentric spacer system was introduced by Rollerblade in 1987, creating the industry standard by which in-line skates are "rockered". The system is a simplified method that allows the middle wheel or wheels to be slightly lowered -- with respect to the end wheels -- to enhance the maneuverability of the skate. This feature is especially important in stunts, hockey and dancing.
Company to License Patents to Defendants/Royalties to Benefit Industry
To alleviate possible negative effects on the industry from the action, Rollerblade will license the ventilated boot patent and eccentric spacer patent to violators named in the complaint. This action represents the first time that the company has licensed its proprietary technology. Licensing terms will be uniform for all parties. To reinforce its long-standing commitment to the sport of in-line skating, Rollerblade has established a special fund through which a portion of licensing royalties will be contributed to programs that support and encourage growth of the industry. Specifically, 100 percent of the first $50,000 received in licensing royalties, and at least five percent of royalties received thereafter will be donated to select programs. Rollerblade, Inc., a privately-held company based in Minnetonka, Minn. (a Minneapolis suburb) pioneered the sport of in-line skating and developed the rapidly growing in-line skating industry, which it continues to lead. Rollerblade is part of Benetton Sportsystem, a sports holding company comprised of 10 brands including Rollerblade, Nordica, Kastle, Asolo, Killer Loop, Prince, Ektelon, Graffaloy, Nitro and Langert. Benetton Sportsystem was founded on the principle that a framework of combined strengths and cooperation in progressive research and development, marketing, merchandising, distribution and services will provide each individual company with maximum support while allowing for the most efficient operational freedom. -0- 2/19/93/0100 /CONTACT: Deb Autrey of Rollerblade, 612-930-7112; or Cici Gordon of Cone Communications, 617-227-2111 for Rollerblade, Inc./
CO: Rollerblade, Inc. ST: Minnesota IN: REA SU: LIC
DJ -- NE006 -- 8073 02/18/93 16:20 EST
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|Date:||Feb 18, 1993|
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