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  • David Perry

Tempur-Pedic to dismiss foam patent lawsuit

Case caused uproar in bedding industry

Heath E. Combs, David Perry -- Furniture Today, October 29, 2009

HIGH POINT - Memory foam leader Tempur-Pedic has agreed to voluntarily dismiss patent infringement litigation against 17 mattress manufacturers, sources said.

Officials at Sealy and Simmons, two of the companies sued by Tempur-Pedic, first reported the development.

Simmons said the Tempur-Pedic lawsuit alleged that two Simmons products infringed on its patent on "laminated visco-elastic support." Simmons denied those allegations and requested that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office re-examine the validity of the Tempur-Pedic patent.

Tempur-Pedic cited Simmons' request for re-examination as the impetus for its decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

The re-examination process, which could take years, would determine if the patent is valid, invalid or should be modified. The process often leads to patents being declared invalid or being modified, sources said.

Rick Anderson, president of Tempur-Pedic North America, said in a statement, "Requests for patent re-examinations are fairly common and we respect the rights of the defendants in this case to make such a request. However, the re-examination can take three or more years to complete. Acting to eliminate the need for all parties to devote resources to this lawsuit during the review period seemed to be in the best interest of all. Therefore, Tempur-Pedic worked with all defendants to mutually agree to dismiss the lawsuit pending the result of the re-examination."

Executives at Sealy and Simmons praised Tempur-Pedic's action.

"We're pleased that Tempur-Pedic has made the decision to end this legal action against Simmons," said Steve Fendrich, president of Simmons. "We maintain that the (Tempur-Pedic) patent is not valid...."

Said Sealy CEO Larry Rogers: "It has been Sealy's position from the beginning that the suit was without merit and was unnecessarily divisive in the industry. Sealy, as the industry leader, fully supports intellectual property rights, but we believe there is an acceptable forum and process to pursue those rights, which we hope Tempur-Pedic considers in the future."

The Tempur-Pedic lawsuit rocked the executive ranks of the International Sleep Products Assn., leading to the resignations of the bedding industry trade group's CEO and chairman.

Tempur-Pedic filed the patent infringement suit in June against a broad swath of producers. Companies named in the suit included Anatomic Global, Bragada, Carpenter, Classic Sleep Products, Englander, Essentia USA, IR Specialty Foam, Jeffco Fibres, Sealy, Serta, Serta Restokraft Mattress Co., Sleep Products Inc., Simmons, Spirit Sleep, WCW and World Sleep Products.

The lawsuit quickly became controversial in industry circles because Tempur-Pedic's Anderson was then serving as ISPA chairman. He said the lawsuit and his work for ISPA were separate, but fallout over the suit and ISPA's handling of it led three companies being sued by Tempur-Pedic - Englander, Carpenter and Anatomic Global - to resign their ISPA memberships.

Anderson later resigned as ISPA chairman. Shortly after that, ISPA CEO Dick Doyle resigned as well. Then Englander and Carpenter rejoined ISPA.

Bedding observers said they had never seen a lawsuit involving such a broad cross-section of key industry players.




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