Conair Group Inc. wants a federal judge in Pittsburgh to rule that Conair's new TrueBlend gravimetric blender does not violate patents by Maguire Products Inc.
A March 16 letter that Maguire's lawyers sent to Conair sparked the legal skirmish. Maguire warned that Conair's planned release of the TrueBlend would infringe on its patents.
Pittsburgh-based Conair filed its complaint April 29 in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.
Conair and a German auxiliary equipment maker, Motan GmbH, worked together to share the blender technology. Motan's unit carries the Gravicolor brand name.
In a news release, Conair said: ``The complaint became necessary because of threats and insinuations made by Maguire's lawyers'' in their letter. Conair said Maguire's ``totally baseless'' allegations prompted Conair to ask the federal court to confirm its rights.
Conair wants the court to issue a declaratory judgment saying the Maguire patents are invalid and/or not infringed on by the TrueBlend.
A Maguire executive said the Aston, Pa., company does have an issue with Motan's design. B. Patrick Smith, vice president of marketing and sales, said that after inspecting the Motan blender at trade shows, Maguire officials believe the design violates its patents.
Smith said Maguire sent the letter to Conair to notify them of that fact.
``It's a situation where we think they infringe, they think they don't, and so they filed suit to get a summary judgment,'' Smith said. In a May 5 telephone interview, Smith said Maguire had not received the lawsuit yet.
``We are very confident of the validity and strength of our patents, and we will do everything we can to protect our intellectual property,'' Smith said.
Even with the legal spat, Conair and Maguire continue to have their long-standing business relationship. Conair said it buys components from Maguire for use on Conair-made blenders. Smith characterized it as a ``private-label agreement'' - in which Maguire ships the entire blender to Conair except for the hopper, which is installed by Conair.
Smith called the lawyer correspondence ``a heads up'' on the legal issue. But Conair said that, given Maguire's track record of filing patent lawsuits, ``a lawsuit was inevitable'' over the TrueBlend.
In the past, Maguire has filed patent suits over blenders against Comet Automation Systems Inc. of Dayton, Ohio; Novatec Inc. of Baltimore; and several European auxiliary equipment makers.
Conair said it worked with Motan of Konstanz, Germany, on the mechanics and software of the product line.
``However, the two companies have adapted their individual products according to their own systems and market specifications,'' Conair said.