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LOS ANGELES — Grizzle & Hunter Plastic Inc., a Temecula, Calif., molder of sprinkler and irrigation components, won the first round in its legal battle with lawn-care products giant Toro Co.

A judge in U.S. District Court of Los Angeles refused to issue a preliminary injunction that would have prevented Grizzle & Hunter from making its products until the matter is settled.

Terry Bingman, lawyer for Grizzle & Hunter, described the victory as ``a big one'' for the small manufacturer. Bingman said the injunction could have put the company out of business.

Besides making golf course sprinkler products, Grizzle & Hunter also does custom molding, operating nine presses with clamping forces of 35-230 tons. The firm employs 24.

Toro of Bloomington, Minn., has a plant in Riverside, Calif., that manufactures sprinkler and irrigation components. Several of Grizzle & Hunter's top employees worked there before forming their own firm. Toro alleges that the former employees stole product designs, client lists and product data that Grizzle & Hunter later used to make and sell its own sprinkler systems.

Toro seeks a permanent injunction against Grizzle & Hunter, and unspecified damages. A Toro spokesman did not return phone calls. A trial date has been set for March 11.

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