An Oregon company, Epha Inc., has sued Parker Hannifin Corp., charging that Parker copied its wrap-around tubing protector - and even ran an advertisement for the Parker Hose Protection Shields that shows the Epha name right on the product. Parker Hannifin believes it has no liability in the conflict, which began with a dispute over a distribution agreement, a Parker official said.
Epha, of Hermiston, Ore., is a family company founded by Mitchell Myers and his father, William Myers, who got the idea while working in construction. Hoses on machinery and construction equipment, such as road graders, commonly wear out by rubbing against other surfaces.
Although tiny Epha is going up against giant Parker Hannifin - and Epha's product is not patented - Mitchell Myers said the trade magazine ad could be a smoking gun. The word ``Epha'' is a registered trademark.
``Right on the hose protector, right in the ad that they've placed in numerous magazines, right in the ad they showed a picture of my hose protector, and it has the registered trademark, Epha Inc., with the registered trademark clearly displayed!'' Myers said.
The ads ran earlier this year.
Epha retained a high-profile law firm and sued Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin in Multnomah County Circuit Court in Portland, Ore. In the lawsuit, filed Oct. 9, Epha wants at least $500,000 in damages and an injunction to stop Parker from using any confidential information and the Epha trademark.
Epha is accusing Parker of a number of illegal acts, including misappropriation of trade secrets, fraud, breach of contract, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
The hose protector is made of flexible plastic and secured with ties. Epha outsources molding of the product to Arendt Manufacturing Inc. in Sparta, Wis.
Lonnie Gallup, general manager of Parker Hannifin's Hose Products Division in Wickliffe, Ohio, declined to say at which location Parker molds the part.
Epha's Portland lawyer, Robert Shlachter, said Epha will seek the manufacturing location in the legal process.
Epha, in an Oct. 14 press release announcing the suit, contends that Parker Hannifin broke its agreement to be the exclusive distributor of the Epha hose protector. Parker started making its own product ``that was confusingly similar to the Epha product,'' the company alleges.
Gallup, of Parker's Hose Products Division, said that soon after Parker agreed to distribute the Epha product, the two companies had a major disagreement over the size of the market. Parker's order was smaller than Epha officials wanted, he said.
Myers said Epha had given Parker detailed, confidential information about the product, including customer contacts. Gallup said Parker did not solicit such information.
Gallup said Epha sent Parker a letter terminating the agreement - leaving Parker with no product and its own orders to fill. He would not directly address the issue of the trade magazine ad.
Myers said Epha - named after his grandmother - was founded in 1986.