It seems a patent lawyer’s work is never done.
After an inquiry from the Daily Report on Wednesday, David Reed of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton responded late Friday with this emailed statement from his client: “YKK operates under a core set of principles that include respecting others’ intellectual property. At the same time, YKK must, and will continue to, protect its own intellectual property, as it was required to do in the recent case against Velcro Companies.”
Most people probably know about Velcro—although they may not know the lawyers don’t want you to use Velcro as a noun or a verb, only an adjective, for patent protection purposes. But people may not think they use YKK products. They’re probably wrong. Look down at your zipper. Does it say YKK? More than half of them made in the world do. And designer brands tend to prefer YKK zippers because they work better, according to a review in Slate.
But the weeklong trial before Judge Leslie Abrams wasn’t about zippers. It was about car seat covers. And the hook and loop fasteners—Velcro or YKK—that hold them in place. The lawyers have been litigating this one case for more than four years. In August 2013, YKK Corp. sued Velcro Cos.—the original inventor of hook and loop fasteners—for patent infringement. YKK sought an injunction to remove VELCRO® Brand fasteners 4Gi and MH4 hook from the transportation market. The products are used in cars with fabric or leather seat covers. It’s a big market at risk.
The jury delivered a verdict in Velcro’s favor on multiple claims Nov. 17, according to a partial trial transcript.
Fish & Richardson principal Christopher Green of Atlanta, who led the legal team for the Velcro Cos., said the team was “thrilled to be able to deliver this victory to our clients.”
“We got high-fives all the way from Canada,” said Fish principal Thad Kodish on the same phone interview Wednesday with Green. The dispute involved U.S. and Canadian Velcro Cos.
Such cases are challenging because they’re complicated and often based on trade secrets, so the lawyers have to ask the judge to seal documents. The trick is to engage the jury without going too far into technical details, the Fish lawyers said.
Velcro has made the plight of a patent lawyer famous and funny with a video now viewed nearly half a million times on YouTube.
But YKK’s legal team is not to be outdone. They took the opportunity to promote their brand, too. The statement went on to say, “YKK has been a true innovator in all areas of the fastening industry, including hook and loop, where Velcro Companies had dominated the transportation and automotive industry with its traditional, older products. Then, YKK applied its innovative spirit to the area of specialty hook and loop products for the transportation and automotive industry over 10 years ago and took the market by storm with its patented and revolutionary Quickfit® products.”
Asked whether the company plans to appeal, Reed did not say immediately. But the statement doesn’t sound like a company giving up. Nor does the corporate values summary on the YKK website. Here’s an excerpt: “Do not fear failure. Experience builds success. Create opportunities.”
The case is YKK Corp. et al v. Velcro USA Inc. (Middle District of Georgia), No. 5:13-cv-00306-LJA.