W.C. Bradley Co. and Char-Broil, LLC Respond to Weber Trademark Infringement Lawsuit
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Columbus, Georgia-based Char-Broil, LLC, and its parent company W.C. Bradley Co. responded yesterday to a lawsuit for trademark infringement filed by Weber-Stephen Products, Inc. in Illinois by filing a counter lawsuit against Weber in the Middle District of Georgia alleging that Weber is in breach of a 1974 settlement agreement and is committing antitrust violations.
Weber's Illinois lawsuit, filed in March, is based on alleged similarities between the Char-Broil Kettleman® grill and Weber's claim that it owns exclusive trademark rights to any three-legged kettle grill shape. According to the 1974 settlement agreement between W.C. Bradley and Weber's predecessor, however, W.C. Bradley is expressly allowed to sell kettle grills “without restriction as to its configuration” and includes an unrestricted license to the Weber Kettle Marks.
Char-Broil and W.C. Bradley insist that the Char-Broil Kettleman grill does not violate any Weber trademarks. In addition, Weber's attempt to push the Kettleman out of the market using improperly obtained trademarks would harm competition and deprive consumers of a high performing kettle grill.
Weber filed a first lawsuit against Char-Broil and its parent company in March 2016 and in doing so failed to mention the 1974 settlement agreement between the two companies. Upon being presented with a copy of the ’74 agreement, Weber attempted to terminate it. On the same day it also dismissed the original lawsuit and refiled a similar lawsuit which incorrectly claimed the ’74 agreement was no longer in effect.
As part of the Georgia lawsuit, Char-Broil and W.C. Bradley contend that Weber has attempted to monopolize, and is monopolizing, the market for three-legged kettle grills because the basic shape is inherently functional and less expensive to manufacture and therefore not eligible for trademark protection.
The companies also assert in the lawsuit that Weber defrauded the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) when it intentionally failed to provide them a copy of the 1974 settlement agreement, as the USPTO may not have granted Weber registration rights to the three-legged kettle grill configuration if it had been aware of the 1974 agreement.
The Char-Broil Kettleman® grill was first introduced to the market in September, 2014, and was perfected over a period of two years of research and development to provide consumers with a higher performing charcoal grill. Char-Broil and W.C. Bradley contend that a side by side comparison of the Kettleman grill and the Weber kettle show that the only similarity between the two is that each are three-legged kettle grills, and that consumers would be unlikely to confuse the two because the overall shape and features are inherently different. The three legs, for example, are differently configured, with the Kettleman grill having a wider base and equilateral spacing.
Unique features of the Char-Broil Kettleman grill include:
- A patent-pending, continuous interior baffle and airflow system for a more efficient temperature control in all weather conditions
- TRU-Infrared™ grill technology that maximizes radiant heat for cooking and minimizes the potential for flare-ups
- Large, central damper controls
- An integrated ash pan
- A hinged lid that locks in place for transport.