Local Inventor Defeats Industry Giant in Federal Court Case

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Philip Wyers, owner of Wyers Products Group, Inc., was awarded $5.35 million dollars in a Federal Circuit Court patent infringement case against Master Lock Company, the world's largest lock maker and a division of Fortune Brands. In an eight day trial, a Federal jury found Master Lock guilty of infringing multiple claims of three different patents owned by Wyers relating to receiver lock technology used in towing applications.

Denver-based inventor Philip Wyers, owner of Wyers Products Group, Inc., was awarded $5.35 million dollars in a Federal Circuit Court patent infringement case against Master Lock Company, the world's largest lock maker and a division of Fortune Brands. In an eight day trial, a Federal jury found Master Lock guilty of infringing multiple claims of three different patents owned by Wyers relating to receiver lock technology used in towing applications.

On March 10, 2009, Federal District Court Judge Lewis T. Babcock in WYERS v. MASTER LOCK COMPANY (Civil Case No. 06-cv-00619-LTB) entered judgment as a matter of law that Master Lock infringed three of Wyers' patents. Master Lock maintained its claims that each of the patents was invalid for a variety of reasons. Judge Babcock entered judgment in Wyers' favor on three of Master Lock's affirmative claims for invalidity. Notwithstanding these rulings, the matter proceeded to verdict on the remaining issues of patent validity and damages. On March 11, 2009, the jury upheld the validity of all three patents, and thereby affirmed infringement, and awarded Wyers $5,350,000 in monetary damages. The Milwaukee office of Michael Best & Friedrich, LLP represented Master Lock.  

Wyers holds over 20 patents in various fields, and is a significant player in the towing, sports, and recreation security lock category. Wyers sells his locks under the national brand name TRIMAX Locks (http://www.trimaxlocks.com), owned by Wyers Products Group, Inc., a Centennial, CO based company, specializing in the design and manufacturing of high quality lock products for trailer & tow, RV, power sports, and bicycles. Customers include many of this country's largest retailers, such as Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's, Sportsman's Warehouse, WalMart, Gander Mountain, Land N Sea, and West Marine to name just a few.
 
A former commercial real estate broker turned inventor in the late 1980's, Philip Wyers is no stranger to competitive market environments. "The real estate I battle for these days is the shelf space in the big box retailers," says Wyers. "The only hope smaller companies have in competing with the giant industry leaders, like a Master Lock, is to develop unique proprietary (patented) products that provide a marketing edge that helps to level the playing field. Applying for, and receiving, patent protection on your innovative ideas is the only way to maintain that advantage. That's why I felt I had to defend my patent rights."
 
Philip Wyers got his inventive start in the late 1980's when he designed and manufactured innovative hitch-related bicycle carriers that mounted in automotive trailer hitches. Says Wyers, "I saw the function and advantage of bike carriers that were attached to vehicle-mounted trailer hitches - as opposed to roof-mount bike carriers, which were difficult to load and posed a hazard when entering home garages or parking structures." Wyers sold his bike-carrier company, then created strollers and car seats for the child-safety industry before moving on to a successful business in the lock industry. It is this very success of his products that makes him a prime target for companies like Master Lock who are looking to gain quick access to new markets.

"Unfortunately, for the small inventor, receiving a patent is only a small part of the ultimate battle," states Wyers. "In today's increasingly competitive market place, where timing is everything, large established companies make a business decision to infringe now, and worry about getting caught later..if ever!" Patent litigation costs can easily exceed one million dollars or more for a basic case, and a patent has no value to its owner if he cannot afford to stop those who choose to infringe. It is rare, if not unheard of, for an individual to take on a fortune 500 company in an attempt to assert its patent rights.
 
"The mega companies are all too aware of these financial realities, and fully exploit this financial hurdle as one more card they hold in the game of market dominance," comments Wyers. "I feel it is important to send a strong message to the industry giants that there are consequences for violating an individual's patent rights, and not just for myself but for all of the small businesses out there. After all, small businesses through hard work and innovation, are the foundation of our country and their survival is key to our countries economic success and growth and this can only be achieved by respecting and protecting intellectual property rights. Without patent protection small companies would have little ability to raise capital, nor could they ever sustain any strategic market advantage."

For more information, or to schedule an interview with Philip Wyers, contact Tammy Phillips at (303) 796-8500.

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Tammy Phillips
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