‘Bionic Wrench’ maker wins Sears patent suit

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - LAU­REN ZUMBACH

CHICAGO — The fa­ther and son be­hind a tool com­pany thought Sears Hold­ings’ Crafts­man brand locking wrench looked a lot like their patented Bionic Wrench — in fact, a lit­tle too much.

A fed­eral jury in Chicago agreed. Nearly five years af­ter Dan Brown Sr.’s com­pany, Log­gerHead Tools, ac­cused Sears and sup­plier Apex Tool Group of copy­ing his cre­ation, a jury has awarded Log­gerHead nearly $6 mil­lion in dam­ages af­ter find­ing the com­pa­nies wil­fully in­fringed on two patents.

“You don’t of­ten see David in the David vs. Go­liath bat­tles win,” said Dan Brown Jr., who runs the com­pany with his fa­ther. “It’s a huge win for small busi­nesses, small in­ven­tors and peo­ple who think if they have a great idea they should be able to bring it to the mar­ket and not be crushed by a cor­po­rate gi­ant.”

Brown Sr. founded Log­gerHead tools in Pa­los Park, Ill., and launched his U.S.-made Bionic Wrench in­ven­tion — an ad­justa­ble­size wrench with a pli­ers-like grip — in 2005. The prod­uct racked up $20 mil­lion in re­tail sales in the next three years, ac­cord­ing to the law­suit.

Sears placed its first or­der with Log­gerHead in 2009, and or­dered more Bionic Wrenches each year un­til 2012, when it in­tro­duced the Crafts­man-brand Max Ac­cess Locking Wrench, which sold for nearly half the price.

Log­gerHead sued Sears and Apex in 2012, claim­ing Max Ac­cess was a “vir­tual copy” of its prod­uct. Last week, a jury awarded dam­ages — based on the num­ber of Crafts­man Max Ax­cess wrenches Sears sold — to­talling nearly $6 mil­lion.

Sears and Apex both said they were “dis­ap­pointed” in the ver­dict. Sears also said Apex would pay all dam­ages in the case.

Apex spokesper­son Kelly Rhoads said the com­pany would likely file an ap­peal.

Sears sold Crafts­man to Stan­ley Black & Decker ear­lier this year, but still sells Crafts­man prod­ucts.

Usu­ally, in­ven­tors at small com­pa­nies don’t have the re­sources to go head-to-head with a ma­jor cor­po­ra­tion they think copied their de­sign and ei­ther don’t sue at all or set­tle for “pen­nies on the dol­lar,” said Paul Skier­mont, the Browns’ at­tor­ney.

Dan Brown Jr. said he and his fa­ther felt they had to go to court to de­fend their in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty or run the risk even more re­tail­ers would choose to cre­ate a knock-off. The Bionic Wrench re­mains Log­gerHead’s flag­ship prod­uct.

Skier­mont said the com­pany Log­gerHead plans to re­quest the judge con­sider award­ing ad­di­tional dam­ages be­cause the jury found both com­pa­nies wil­fully in­fringed on Log­gerHead’s patents.

Log­gerHead also will be seek­ing an in­junc­tion that would keep the al­leged copy­cat prod­ucts off the mar­ket, he said.

TNS FILE PHOTO

Dan Brown Sr., and his son Dan ac­cused Apex of copy­ing the Bionic Wrench.

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