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L to R: Kenmore Elite 500 Series Gas Grill and the Weber Genesis S-310 Gas Grill.

Sears To Face Bulk Of Patent Claims In Weber Grill Feud

Monday, December 28, 2015

From Law360

Sears must face a lawsuit alleging infringement of a handful of patents owned by grill maker Weber, with an Illinois federal court on December 22 tossing one design patent from the suit while saying there was evidence Sears stepped on two others.

U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang said it was unclear that Kenmore grills sold by Sears Holding Corp. had infringed a design for grill lids that are one component of the Genesis line created by Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Some of the design features present on the lids existed in prior art, Judge Chang ruled, though he did not invalidate the patent, instead granting Sears a noninfringement summary judgment on the patent.

Meanwhile, the judge refused Sears’ summary judgment on another patent of the overall design of the grills, and also rejected a request that a utility patent be tossed from the suit.

“Weber is thrilled with the decision from Judge Chang confirming Weber’s significant intellectual property rights in its Genesis grill design,” Weber's attorney Raymond Niro Jr. of Niro McAndrews LLC. told Law360 on Wednesday.

Attorneys for Sears declined to comment.

Sears used to sell the Weber line of grills until 2012, when the manufacturer stopped supplying the retailer with its products. Weber then sued in 2013, arguing that the Kenmore Elite 500, 600 and 700 series copied many of the features of Weber's own Genesis series of grills.

The complaint alleges that the overall looks of the two grills are nearly identical, with Sears unsuccessfully arguing earlier in the year that an ordinary consumer would not recognize a Weber grill.

In a pair of decisions addressing Weber’s trade dress claims, Judge Chang noted that Weber had spent tens of millions of dollars on advertising campaigns to expose consumers to its products and that it was plausible that the Kenmore line could be confused for the Genesis line.

A reasonable jury could rely, among other things, on the striking similarity between Weber’s grills (including the trade dress) and Sears’s grills, the substantial evidence that Sears copied Weber’s look, and Weber’s creditable (though certainly not dispositive) evidence of actual confusion,” he wrote in his November decision.

One of the design patents upheld Tuesday also related to the overall look of the grill, and Judge Chang said a utility patent in which a grease drip pan blocks the addition of a second fuel tank was unique to the Genesis line and could not be dismissed from the suit at this time.

Aside from arguing it never invalidated the patents or that the patents were invalid, Sears has also brought counterclaims that Weber breached its supply contract by refusing to supply replacement parts for the Weber grills sold at Sears. 

The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Numbers 8,347,874; D564,834; and D609,045.

Weber is represented by Raymond P. Niro Jr., Matthew G. McAndrews and Kyle D. Wallenberg of Niro McAndrews LLC.

Sears is represented by Paul R. Garcia and Jordan A. Arnot of Partridge & Garcia PC and David R. Yohannan and Stephen R. Freeland of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP.

The suit is Weber-Stephen Products LLC v. Sears Holdings Corp. et al., case number 1:13-cv-01686, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

– Editing by Edrienne Su

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