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Wolverine World Wide Inc. is suing Harbor Footwear Group Ltd. and Kohl’s Corp., claiming the companies illegally copied and sold popular styles of Wolverine’s Merrell brand of shoes. The patent infringement lawsuit asks that the defendants be prohibited from making and selling specific styles of Harbor’s GBX brand of adult and children’s shoes. It also seeks unspecified damages. “Merrell will not tolerate the violation of our innovative and proprietary designs and will aggressively defend our intellectual property through the courts,” Jacques Lavertue, president of Wolverine’s Outdoor Group, said Tuesday in a statement. A man who answered the telephone Tuesday at Port Washington, N.Y.-based Harbor said the company would have no comment. He declined to identify himself. Vicki Shamion, a spokeswoman for Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl’s, also declined to comment. Rockford, Mich.-based Wolverine, which also makes Hush Puppies shoes, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers and marketers of footwear. Merrell is the best-selling brand in the company’s Outdoor Group. The eight-page lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court in Grand Rapids, Mich., claims that Harbor and Kohl’s made and sold a line of adult and children’s shoes throughout the United States that “are strikingly and materially similar in appearance” to three Merrell styles of casual outdoor slip-ons. The two companies “systematically and repeatedly” copied Wolverine’s patented designs, it says. Wolverine alleges that the GBX Ranier, Ram and Raven models were made to resemble the Merrell Jungle Moc, while the GBX Trail Clog was made to look like the Merrell Jungle Slide and the GBX Trail Sport like the Merrell Winter Moc. The GBX styles sold for about one-half to two-thirds of the prices of the Merrell brands, which list for about $40 for children’s sizes to around $65 for men’s and women’s sizes. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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