Automated Products International LLC (API) announced today that it has initiated a patent infringement lawsuit against Norco Industries Inc. in Federal Court in South Bend, Ind.
According to a press release, LaGrange, Ind.-based API alleges in the lawsuit that Norco is willfully infringing API’s patent relating to recreational vehicle roof support rafters. API is seeking damages for past sales and an injunction against Norco’s future sales of certain RV rafters.
The invention described and claimed in the patent provides for a RV rafter that is lightweight, strong and easily shaped to conform to curved roof lines. API said its “shapeable I-beam” design also results in rafters that are simple to manufacture, creating substantial labor cost savings over other designs.
“API has invested in its technology and intellectual property and, unfortunately, others seek to benefit from that investment by violating our patent,” said Ron Yoder, API’s owner and president. “We are dedicated to providing innovative, cost effective solutions to our customers. We also regard our patents and product solutions as valuable assets and we intend to vigorously protect our intellectual property against infringement of any kind.”
In 2012, Norco sued API claiming the company infringed certain Norco design patents relating to RV rafters. Norco dismissed that lawsuit with prejudice earlier this year after first agreeing to never again assert those patents against API and paying API $22,000 to cover a portion of API’s attorneys’ fees spent defending the lawsuit.
Richard Klein, a mechanical and aerospace engineer with more than 30 years of experience in vehicle dynamics, was among those addressing 82 representatives of 38 RV manufacturers and suppliers on the stability of trailer design during a March 5 seminar hosted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind. Klein reviewed decades-old, safety-related engineering data, according to Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of standards and education. “It appears from listening to Dick Klein that there was engineering information out there for 30 years that is valid today that only a few people knew about,” said David Mihalick, Thor Industries Inc. corporate standards compliance manager. “The seminar got us back to hard engineering data.” In addition to Klein, seminar speakers included consultant Harley Holt, president of Harley Holt and Associates Inc., and David Kinder, a partner with the Texas-based Cox Smith, a law firm that has represented RV manufacturers in cases involving claims related to travel trailer stability and rollovers. “The seminar provided a number of recommendations for the manufacturers to look at,” Hopkins said. The event was sponsored by AL-KO Kober, Corp., Dexter Axle Co. and Norco Industries.