A federal judge has ruled that both defendants Renosky Lure, Inc. and Joseph F. Renosky (referred to as â€œRenoskyâ€) infringed a patent of Z-Man Fishing Products, Inc. (â€œZ-Manâ€) by selling fishing lures similar to Z-Man’s ChatterBait ® brand bladed swim jigs. United States District Judge Richard M. Gergel, in an order dated June 15, 2012, ruled Z-Man’s patent at issue valid and that Z-Man was entitled to partial summary judgment on its patent infringement claims against Renosky.
â€œWe are extremely pleased with the judge’s ruling in this case,â€ said Z-Man President Jonathan Zucker. â€œWe have gone to great lengths to protect the innovations behind our ChatterBait brand lures, including obtaining two patents. Watching a competitor blatantly copy our patented lure design has been frustrating, and our hope is that the court’s ruling in this case will help deter further copycats.â€
In 2006, the ChatterBait brand bladed swim jig burst onto the bass fishing scene and, following several tremendous tournament successes, became a highly-sought-after lure virtually overnight. As word of its effectiveness spread, numerous lure companies copied the breakthrough design of this unique lure. To protect the advancements and technology in its innovative lure design, Z-Man obtained two separate patents: U.S. Patent No. 7,627,978, issued December 8, 2009 (â€˜978 patent), and U.S. Patent No. 7,726,062, issued June 1, 2010 (â€˜062 patent).
Nonetheless, in 2010, Renosky began to sell a knock-off lure that was strikingly similar to Z-Man’s ChatterBait lure, and Z-Man was left with little choice other than to file suit. Z-Man sued Renosky on February 22, 2011, alleging claims of patent infringement, trade dress infringement, interference with prospective advantage, unfair competition, breach of contract, and conversion. Subsequently, Z-Man moved for summary judgment on patent infringement and validity.
In essence, the court rejected Renosky’s invalidity arguments and found that Renosky unlawfully infringed the â€˜062 patent as a matter of law because Renosky’s knock-off lures could not be distinguished, from a patent perspective, from Z-Man’s baits. Renosky lost on its argument that the eyelet on the Renosky lure was not â€œfixed withinâ€ the jig head as required by the â€˜062 patent. The court ruled that â€œfixed withinâ€ does not mean â€œimmovable,â€ but instead assigned a broader definition of â€œto make firm, stable, or stationary in or into the interior.â€ This broad definition helps create a high barrier for those who may attempt a patent â€œwork aroundâ€ to produce a copycat product.