Sierra Pacific Issues New Media Statement in Case Against Kolbe

March 4th, 2019 by Drew Vass

Sierra Pacific Windows issued a press release last week, reiterating a legal battle the company launched against fellow door and window manufacturer Kolbe and Kolbe Millwork Co. Inc. (Kolbe). In October 2018, Sierra Pacific filed a complaint, alleging that Kolbe committed infringements against patents issued for its H3 line of products. And while representatives for Sierra Pacific tell DWM’s editors there are no new developments in the case, company officials say they felt, “… it was important to be transparent with the industry and communicate our strong and rightful protection of Sierra Pacific Windows’ intellectual property.” The new statement was issued February 28.

Patent disputes center on products introduced by window manufacturer Hurd (later acquired by Sierra Pacific in 2014) back in 2009. Started under the name Transcend, the product line began with a casement window made of extruded vinyl, wood and aluminum, but later expanded to include additional product types—most notably Sierra Pacific’s H3 windows. An article published by Consumers Digest magazine in September 2013 dubbed the concept, “hybrid windows,” writing, “You won’t find a ‘hybrid’ label on these products. Manufacturers use vague labels such as ‘tri-core’ or ‘fusion technology’ to describe these designs. We coined the hybrid term to describe what they are—a product that looks like a standard aluminum-clad wood window (aluminum exterior, all-wood frame, wood interior) but has the thermal advantages of vinyl, which does a better job of insulating than wood does.”

Officials for Hurd said the product marked a “complete redesign from typical aluminum-clad wood windows.” In January 2013, Consumers Digest reported on other design trends that commingled materials for the sake of improvements, including Jeld-Wen’s W-2500, an aluminum-clad wood window that included a vinyl sill. In March 2013, he reported, Weather Shield launched a Signature Series, with a design similar to that of Hurd’s, via a vinyl subframe. Officials for Sierra Pacific now report that in October 2013, an official patent was issued for the design, titled “Versatile Hybrid Window System,” to HWD Acquisition Inc., of Medford, Wis., of which they now say Sierra Pacific is the owner by assignment of all right, title and interest. Meanwhile, “Kolbe’s VistaLuxe windows and doors are also a tri-material construction hybrid,” officials for Sierra Pacific announced in the company’s February 28 release. That design, they say, skirts a little too close for comfort to the H3.

In a complaint filed October 17, 2018, with the U.S. District for the Western District of Wisconsin (where Kolbe is based), officials for Sierra Pacific provide cutaway images of the company’s hybrid design, explaining that, “The window assembly is ‘hybrid’ in that different materials are used for the interior, exterior, and base. Generally, wood-type material is used for the interior, metal-type material is used for the exterior, and plastic-type material is used for the base.” The design, they say, has become one of the company’s, “most popular and successful line of window products.” Kolbe’s VistaLuxe Collection of doors and windows, Sierra Pacific’s complaint suggests, are, “strikingly similar to Sierra Pacific’s patented H3 window assembly.” The complaint goes on to detail specifics, alleging that Kolbe has manufactured and sold “strikingly similar” products since about 2013.

“It is likely Kolbe had access to and accessed in fact Sierra Pacific patented windows marked with the ’365 patent number,” the complaint alleges, adding that the company has complied with the marking provisions of 35 U.S.C. § 287, having substantially and continuously marked the patent number for “many years.” Notice of that patent number, the court filing suggests, has been provided at least through marking on patented H3 window assemblies and/or marking windows with citation to the Sierra Pacific website that associates the patented articles with the patent number. As a result, officials allege, “Kolbe likely had knowledge of the ’365 patent as it made, sold, and offered to sell its infringing windows each year after it began selling the windows, and continues its infringing activities with knowledge of the patent.” Alleged infringements, officials for Sierra Pacific suggest led to, “… millions of dollars in revenues and profits selling the Accused Products,” including additional accompanying products that officials say would not have otherwise been sold. The company is suing for damages, including all related legal and attorney’s fees, while demanding a trial by jury to examine the evidence.

“Sierra Pacific Windows will vigorously defend our intellectual property and patented ideas,” vowed president Tom Takach, in the company’s recent release. “Innovation is the driving force of our company, and we take our reputation as an innovative industry leader, as well as the protection of proprietary portfolio of branded products, very seriously.”

In a statement also issued February 28, Mike Tomsyck, vice president of Kolbe, responds, “Kolbe has conducted a thorough review of these invalid claims, and we firmly believe the Sierra Pacific allegations are without merit.” After a detailed investigation, he says, Kolbe has concluded that its VistaLuxe windows do not infringe upon the patent owned by Sierra Pacific. Tomsyck farther alleges that his company believes that the patent upon which Sierra bases its claims is “invalid.” He says his company designed its VistaLuxe Collection, “… after listening to the needs of architects and designers who preferred the modern aesthetic, and whose needs were not being met in the marketplace.”

The line was launched in 2013.

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