Some people might think a bone is a bone is a bone, but in the world of wishbones, an injection molded plastic rendition has a copyright, which was recently upheld in a $1.7 million verdict against Sears, Roebuck & Co.
After a four-year legal battle, captive injection molder Lucky Break Wishbone Corp. of Auburn, Wash., is celebrating victory in a fight that had the artistic copyright of the plastic wishbone at its core.
In April, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle upheld a $1.7 million verdict in favor of Lucky Break. The company had originally filed suit against Sears and advertising agency Young & Rubicam in 2006.
Lucky Break President Ken Ahroni said in a May 12 telephone interview that he initiated the civil case after negotiating to sell the wishbones at Sears stores but then Sears went with another supplier instead.
At the very end, they switched gears and went to China. What they brought into the country was virtually identical to our product, Ahroni said. Sears copied the sculpture of our wishbone.
In court, Ahroni went so far as to bring in a bird skeleton expert, an osteologist, as a witness. The osteologist had worked with the Smithsonian Institution.
We established that our wishbone was different than all the other wishbones that this guy had seen in his career, Ahroni said.
Now that the David and Goliath lawsuit is over and no further appeals are possible, Ahroni is going to focus on product development and growing his small injection molding company in other areas.
It's a quirky product; it's a fun product, he said.
In terms of the lawsuit, We never thought it was going to play out like this. We thought they would settle. But they took it all the way and so did we.
Ahroni came out of retirement to start his company in 2004. Although he won't disclose the resin from which the wishbone is produced, the wishbone snaps like a real dried wishbone without shattering.
We want it to sound like a wishbone breaking, said Ahroni, whose forte had been Christmas light factories. He had been a product development consultant for 25 years.
After 25 years decided I wanted to do something different, he said. I had these ideas floating around and chose to move forward with this plastic wishbone idea that I had.
What's the market for plastic wishbones? Vegetarians love it, and so do kids, he said imagine not having a battle at Thanksgiving dinner over who gets to pull the one lonely wishbone.
But the bones are already beyond the U.S. market. Lucky Break exports to 10 countries including Turkey.
They ordered them twice, Ahroni said. The first time was funny. The second time was hysterical, he said.
Lucky Break's other markets include Western Europe, Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and France.
The product is sold mostly at retail locations in the U.S., although Lucky Break will branch out into grocery stores this year.
The company's current capacity is about 1 million bones per month. Ahroni said he plans to add another shift this month at the factory in Auburn to accommodate growth.
In terms of other product development, We do have other things in the works that I can't talk about, Ahroni said. Our business plan was just not to have the lucky break wishbone.
Ahroni said one of his goals in starting the company was to support the local economy.
If I didn't think it was going to hurt the bottom line, I was willing to take a chance and develop [and manufacture the wishbone] here.
Copyright 2010 Crain Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.