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Competitor sues Utah-based Chums over patent infringement

Published March 13, 2014 8:31 am

Salt Lake • Utah-based eyeglass-retainer company sees no merit in competitor's suit
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It doesn't seem as though there should be much difference in the design of devices that keep sunglasses or eyeglasses from falling to the ground.

But apparently there might be.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Cablz eyewear retainers recently sued Salt Lake City-based Chums in the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Alabama for patent infringement. The lawsuit seeks a jury trial and compensation for a patent protecting what Cablz claims is a unique eyewear-retainer system invented by company founder and CEO Ron Williams.

Chums' products cited for infringement include the Orbiter, Adjustable Orbiter and Mono Orbiter.

"We take our intellectual property rights very seriously, and we're taking the steps necessary to protect our patents from any company or party that seeks to profit from them without authorization. Lots of thought, time and engineering went into our designs. We're confident Cablz will prevail in this lawsuit. If so, Chums and its retailers could be liable for damages and Chums could be prohibited from manufacturing or selling its infringing products."

Chums CEO Sterling McMurrin said his company is aware of the lawsuit but believes it is without merit. In a letter, he said that Chums' products do not infringe any valid and enforceable claim included in the asserted patent. He said it will defend its products and partners against the allegations.

Chums answered the lawsuit on Feb. 12, denying Cablz' infringement allegations and asserting counterclaims to invalidate the asserted patent.

"Chums and its retail partners know that eyewear retainers, which are suspended off the neck of the wearer, were available from Chums and others for many years before Cablz filed for its patent in 2008," wrote McMurrin. "In connection with its patent application, however, Cablz did not disclose and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did not consider all of these prior eyewear retainers. In addition, Cablz waited almost a year after it obtained the patent at issue before bringing what Chums believes is a meritless lawsuit."

McMurrin said the fact that Cablz timed its suit to coincide with the February Outdoor Retailer Show was a "cynical way to obtain press for its products."

Chums has been producing retainers for about 30 years.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton