LaPorte company alleges trademark infringement

2013-03-28T13:30:00Z 2013-03-28T16:30:04Z LaPorte company alleges trademark infringementBy Chelsea Schneider Kirk, (219) 933-3241

HAMMOND | The owner of LaPorte-based Paynes Products is suing a tool company in federal court for allegedly selling imitations of his products.

Robert Payne filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond against Minnesota-based Northern Tool and Equipment Company Inc. and its catalog, claiming trademark infringement and breach of contract.

Payne's company is best known for a tool he invented called Paynes Forks, which transforms the bucket of a tractor into a forklift, according to the complaint. 

Payne entered into an agreement with the Minnesota company in 2005 to market his products in their stores and a separate agreement in 2007 with the catalog, earning about $6.5 million through 2012 in sales by the association, according to the complaint.

Yet, Payne said while he was notified in October the company no longer wanted to advertise or receive orders for his products, the company is continuing to market similar goods they have manufactured, the complaint states.

“As a direct and proximate cause of defendants' deliberate actions, (Payne's) sales have plummeted since the termination of the vendor agreement whereas defendants' continue to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of (Payne's) goodwill,” according to the complaint.

Requests for comment from Payne's attorney and a representative of Northern Tool and Equipment Company Inc. were not returned Thursday.

Payne began the process of trademarking Paynes Products in August, and while the products aren't officially registered yet, he did obtain a “protected unregistered trademark” because he was the first to introduce the tools into the marketplace, according to the suit.

Payne is seeking an emergency injunction to bar the company from using the name Paynes Products or any mark, word or name similar to his products, along with $5,000 in damages he argues is owed to him through the vendor agreement.

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