Batesville, IN – Patent attorneys for Batesville-based Hillenbrand Inc., and its subsidiary Batesville Casket Company, the largest U.S. maker of coffins, have won an order to ban imports of knockoff caskets from Mexico in a patent infringement decision.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) in Washington said Monday that Ataudes Aguilares, a Mexican company, will be barred from importing caskets with patented memorabilia compartments and ornamental corner pieces. Batesville has patented caskets with memorabilia compartments, which is a drawer where family members can put personal mementos, Batesville said in its complaint. The patented ornamental corner pieces allow funeral directors to easily change the pieces quickly and easily. The four patents for the caskets with memorabilia compartments, U.S. Patent Numbers 5,611,124; 5,727,291; 6,836,936; 6,976,294; and, and the parent for the quick change corner attachment, Number 7,340,810, are registered with the US Patent Office. Batesville has also patented the specialty coffins in Canada and Mexico.
Patent attorneys for Batesville alleged that Ataudes Aguilares manufactures and imports coffins that copy Batesville’s patented designs, specifically, Aguilares sold the knock-off coffins in Puerto Rico. Batesville’s patent attorneys have previously filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico against the Puerto Rican companies selling the infringing coffins. According to its complaint, Puerto Rican sellers have admitted to infringing Batesville’s patents and that Aguilares was the importer.
In June, Batesville filed this complaint with the USITC, seeking a ban of importation of the knock-off coffins. The Mexican company failed to respond to the patent infringement claims before the USITC. A USITC administrative law judge then found Aguilares in default and granted the import ban.
Practice Note: While most patent infringement disputes are addressed by an infringement suit in Federal Court, patent owners also have another option when a competitor is importing infringing products into the US. The patent owner may file an unfair trade practices complaint with the International Trade Commission. One benefit of this form of relief is time – the commission is obligated to make a decision within one year. In contrast, patent infringement litigation can take many years to resolve.