A federal jury said Master Lock Co. infringed on patents for receiver lock technology used in towing applications and ordered the company to pay $5.35 million to inventor Philip Wyers, owner of Wyers Products Group Inc.
Wyers said the verdict validates his belief that small businesses like his must defend their patent rights, despite the legal hurdles and costs involved.
"I feel it is important to send a strong message to the industry giants that there are consequences for violating an individual's patent rights, and not just for myself but for all of the small businesses out there," he said in a statement.
Master Lock plans to appeal the verdict.
"Master Lock will vigorously pursue an appeal to overturn the verdict in this case," said Rebecca Smith, vice president of retail marketing, in a statement. "Master Lock remains confident in its position that the patents in question are invalid and that it will ultimately prevail through the appeals process."
Wyers sells his locks under the national brand name Trimax Locks. His Centennial, Colo.-based company specializes in the design and manufacture of lock products for trailer and tow, recreational vehicle, power sports and bicycles.
On March 10, Federal District Court Judge Lewis T. Babcock ruled that Master Lock infringed on three of Wyers' patents.
Master Lock had argued that each of the patents was invalid for a variety of reasons, but the judge ruled in Wyers' favor on three of Master Lock's claims for invalidity.
The matter proceeded to verdict on the remaining issues of patent validity and damages. On March 11, the jury upheld the validity of all three patents, thereby affirming infringement, and awarded Wyers $5,350,000 in monetary damages.