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Patent Office Reexamining Whalen Patents Underlying Lawsuits Against Competitors

In separate press releases, Bell’O International and Z-Line Design today announced progress in an effort to have patents awarded to Whalen Furniture Manufacturing reexamined. However, Whalen stated that reexamination is part of a dispute process and did not suggest its patents had been revoked.

The action comes after Whalen sued Bell’O, Z-Line, Walker Edison Furniture Co. and TechCraft Manufacturing late last year for infringing a patent for its 3-in-1 mount. Whalen launched the patent infringement lawsuits against the companies on December 19, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

In the actions, Whalen alleged that the 3-in-1 television stands produced by the four competitors infringed U.S. Patent Number 8,079,311 owned by Whalen. In the suit, Whalen sought an award of damages as well as an injunction to have its competitors enjoined from manufacturing and/or selling their infringing television stands in the U.S.

On June 5, Whalen announced that it was awarded a second utility patent for its 3-in-1 Television Support and Mounting Kit. The company then filed lawsuits against Bell’O, Z-Line, Walker-Edison and TechCraft, Inc., alleging infringement of the new patent, Number 8,191,485.

Today, Bell’O announced that, on November 9, The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office issued orders granting the company’s request and for reexamination of Whalen’s ‘311 and ‘485 patents; and a request for an action rejecting the claims related to them in the reexamination proceedings.

Marc Sculler, Bell’O CEO, noted that the patent office had accepted arguments that the company had made in asking for the reexamination. According to patent office documentation provided by Bell’O, an examiner determined that Bell’O would likely to prevail in its objections to Whalen’s patent claims and ordered the reexamination. 

“Bell’O has not infringed any of Whalen’s alleged patent rights, and Bell’O will continue to vigorously defend against the complaint’s allegations,” Sculler said. “As a leading designer and manufacturer of furniture and consumer electronic accessories, Bell’O holds over 200 worldwide patents, trademarks and copyrights. Bell’O respects intellectual property rights and takes care to avoid infringements. Bell’O will continue to pursue invalidity of Whalen’s ‘311 and ‘485 patents via the PTO reexamination proceedings and in the lawsuit.”

Z-Line Designs issued a statement reiterating its previously expressed position on the patent infringement lawsuits filed against it by Whalen as being without merit. Z-Line asserted in the statement that its contention has been supported by the patent office’s reexamination proceedings. Among the defects with the patents the PTO found, according to Z-Line, was that one of Whalen’s own products was on sale and sold well prior to the applications that led to the issuance of the patents. That circumstance rendered the patents invalid, Z-Line stated.

Jim Sexton, CEO of Z-Line Designs commented, “As a leading furniture designer and manufacturer, Z-Line respects intellectual property rights and takes care to avoid infringements. Z-Line itself has a strong intellectual property portfolio that it has developed over many years. Z-Line assures their customers and partners that Z-Line stands behind and is fully committed to its products, and that they should not be misled by any claims from Whalen representatives regarding Z-Line’s products, or its ability to supply those products. There will be no change or impact on the way Z-Line sells and supports their product lines. Z-Line intends to defend these lawsuits vigorously and is convinced now, more than ever, that it has strong and meritorious positions that will prevail.”

In its statement, Whalen said, “Reexaminations are part of the normal course of a patent dispute. While Whalen’s patents will be reexamined in the USPTO, Whalen’s lawsuit against Bell’O and Z-Line for infringement of the ‘311 and ‘485 Patents remains. Whalen is confident that the USPTO will confirm the validity of Whalen’s patents and a  jury will confirm Bell’O’s and Z-Line’s infringement.”