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Forest River Files 3rd Suit Against Heartland RV

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January 11, 2010 by   6 Comments

Forest River Inc. last week filed a civil suit alleging copyright infringement in federal court against Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC.

It is the third copyright infringement suit Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River has filed against Heartland in the past two years.

In this latest suit, filed Jan. 7 in Northern Indiana District Court in South Bend, Forest River alleges that the floorplan for Heartland’s MPG travel trailer, unveiled at last month’s National RV Trade Show in Louisville, is an exact copy of Forest River’s copyrighted RP 176.

In other promotional brochures distributed at the show, Heartland displays images of the Geico gekko, a promotional character used by Geico, an insurance company owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., parent company of Forest River.

“This was not an innocent mistake; they targeted us,” Ryan Fountain, attorney for Forest River told RVBUSINESS.COM.

He said Forest River complained to Heartland, but the company did nothing, so the suit was filed.

In previous lawsuits, Forest River alleges that Heartland copied the Forest River Cedar Creek floorplans and that promotional materials for its North Country included false advertising.

Litigation between the two companies began after the October 2008 “hotel incident” in which Forest River alleges that Heartland attempted to lure Forest River dealers during Forest River’s dealer show held in Elkhart.

The first two suits are pending in courts in Fort Wayne and Hammond, Ind.

The latest suit seeks no dollar amount.

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Comments

6 Responses to “Forest River Files 3rd Suit Against Heartland RV”

  1. John on January 11th, 2010 11:56 am

    Gekko? It is a tree frog… http://www.google.com/search?q=tree+frog&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=&oe=

    A simple google search will show that it is not a gekko .. come on Forest River, you need to be a little smarter than that…

  2. Ryan M. Fountain on January 12th, 2010 12:10 pm

    John,

    I think you may be misunderstanding which advertisement is being complained about. Forest River does indeed use a tree frog logo on its R.Pod products, but the Heartland advertisement which was distributed at the Louisville show used a gekko-like logo that resembles the trademark of Geico, a sister corporation to Forest River.

  3. Bill on January 16th, 2010 2:15 pm

    Ryan,

    Please explain how Forest River can claim copyright infringement on this product, yet at the Louisville show they told dealers that they COPIED the 5 best floorplans from Cougar and called it Wildcat. Same EXACT floorplans as Cougar X-Lite, just changed name to Wildcat X-Lite! Are you kidding me?!! Forest River steals ideas from competitors at Louisville on one side, and then sues for the the same thing at Louisville on the other side. You are hurting the industry, Ryan M. Fountain. Dealers, buy the Cougar. Forest River will not be legally allowed to sell the Wildcat X-Lite if/when Cougar sues.

  4. Bill on January 16th, 2010 2:29 pm

    Ryan,

    What is Forest River’s response to the dealer claim that Forest River COPIED the 5 best Cougar X-Lite floorplans and called in the “new” Wildcat X-Lite at this year’s Louisville show? As you know, you are the smartest guy in the room. Please explain to the dealers how Forest River stealing the Cougar floorplan is different from what you claim Heartland did?

  5. F Muir on January 26th, 2010 1:18 am

    The premise that this is the third suit that Forest River has filed against Heartland, and that the “Hotel Incident” started it is totally wrong.

    Litigation between the two did not begin with the “Hotel Incident”. The “Hotel Incident”, is just a small part of a much larger case.

    Heartland threw down the gauntlet first when, in October of 2008, it sued Forest River over alleged infringement of it’s “…650 Patent… ….Travel Trailer Having Improved Turning Radius” concerning the front box structure of certain fifth wheel trailers.

    Forest River has, and is, actively litigating this suit on several grounds. The first of these is that Heartland’s patent is invalid, and was fraudulently obtained, because “prior art” existed of the design that Heartland patented as it had been used by numerous manufacturers prior to Heartland. At least a half dozen examples of such “prior art” were presented to the court FR. Forest River continues to seek discovery to prove that Heartland had knowledge of this prior art but has been impeded by Heartland at every step.

    Forest River also demonstrated that, even though Heartland’s patent may be invalid and obtained through fraud, the design of Forest River’s “Silverback” trailer, which Heartland claims infringes on their patent, is fully legal and does not infringe as it was based on such commonly used “prior art” and also has distinct differences from the design that Heartland patented.

    Forest River also filed a counterclaim, under the Lanham Act, against Heartland in which it alleges “Criminal Deception” for allegedly crashing a private, by invitation, trade show for Forest River dealers and prospective dealers. Forest River alleges, apparently with video evidence and testimony from hotel employees, that Heartland employees posed as representatives of Forest River, obtained the guest lists and room numbers of Forest Rivers guests, and distributed literature that was detrimental to Forest River, and which promoted Heartland products directly to the attendees rooms. This is the “Hotel Incident” noted in the article. This is not a separate suit but part of the original patent suit as filed by Heartland.

    Apparently out of fear that they might lose the case, and lose the patent which may have been used for collateral on loans (discovery continues), in May of 2009 Heartland moved to dismiss the patent infringement claim against Forest River and filed a “Covenant Not to Sue” over the existing patent. However, around the same time, they filed for another “submarine patent” on the same design. Forest River has refused to accept this motion for dismissal as they want the case fully litigated to prove that the “650 Patent” is invalid, was obtained by fraud, and to prevent Heartland from suing Forest River or any other manufacturer over the design. Forest River also wants certain Heartland creditors to be “joined” as parties to the case as the patent may have been used to (perhaps fraudulently) obtain loans.

    In light of the animosity between the two companies, I would think that Mr. Fountains claim that “they targeted us” is completely plausible.

  6. Bill on February 17th, 2010 12:51 pm

    Ryan M. Fountain,

    You better get after Earthbound RV – they are using a gecko on their website (or is it a tree frog??)!!

    http://www.earthboundrv.com/index.php

    It looks like they are targeting Forest River. The entire RV industry must be conspiring to get you guys! Sue them and put an end to the great gecko conspiracy.

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