CLEVELAND (Legal Newsline) - The maker of the Reel Grip, a popular fishing accessory, is going after mega retailer Walmart for patent infringement.
Reel Grip Ltd., based in Wadsworth, Ohio, filed its suit against Arkansas-based Walmart in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, last week.
In its 18-page complaint, Reel Grip charges Walmart with not only patent infringement, but also trade dress infringement, unfair competition, deceptive trade practices and trademark infringement.
According to its filing, Reel Grip invented and developed a grip for fishing reel handle knobs. The “Reel Grip,” a simple rubber slip-on grip, is designed to add comfort and ergonomics to any fishing bait-cast reel.
The company claims its Reel Grip has been made available in stores and on the Internet since 2005, and that it secured the patent to the product -- U.S. Patent No. 7,494,081 -- in February 2009.
Reel Grip accuses Walmart of stealing its design and selling a “nearly identical product” in its stores.
As shown in a photo included in the company’s complaint, Walmart’s version is branded “Outdoor Angler” and described as “Reel Knob Covers” on its packaging.
Reel Grip also accuses Walmart of going as far as calling its version Reel Grip -- on price tags, receipts, etc.
The Ohio company describes Walmart’s infringement as “intentional,” “willful” and “deliberate” in its complaint, noting that the Reel Grip is “well-known” in the industry.
According to its website, the Reel Grip is used by fishing pros Dave Lefebre and Joe Balog.
“Walmart’s actions, as discussed above, have caused Reel Grip Ltd. to suffer, and continue to suffer, substantial harm, including irreparable harm and money damages, including but not limited to the loss of sales and profits, which Reel Grip Ltd. would have made but for the actions of Walmart,” the company wrote in its complaint.
“Upon information and belief, Walmart has profited from and will continue to profit from its above actions.”
Reel Grip is seeking an order from the federal court requiring Walmart to destroy all infringing products -- including any tools or machines used in their manufacturing. It also is asking the court to issue an order for an accounting of all earnings achieved by Walmart as a consequence of its infringement.
It also is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys fees and costs.
Canton, Ohio, law firm Black McCuskey Souers & Arbaugh is representing Reel Grip Ltd.
“At Walmart, we respect the intellectual property rights of others,” Walmart spokeswoman Betsy Harden said. “We are reviewing the complaint and will respond appropriately.”
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