EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Eugene-based sportswear company Innovative Sports is speaking out for the first time since filing a lawsuit against the Columbia Sportswear Company, claiming Columbia stole its heated clothing technology.
Innovative Sports filed the lawsuit in March 2012, claiming that Columbia took its designs for heated jackets powered by batteries. Columbia has denied the claim and is asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
Innovative Sports owner Colby Taylor spoke with NewsSource 16 on Thursday, February 22, showing several heated jacket sleeves he designed for athletes in the early 2000s.
In 2006, the jackets received some national attention when the Oregon State Beavers baseball team won the NCAA College World Series. The Beavers star pitcher Jonah Nickerson was seen wearing Innovative Sports’ 'The Heater' heated baseball sleeve several times throughout the championship.
Taylor says Innovative Sports had always intended to take the technology to the consumer jacket level. According to the lawsuit, Innovative Sports had several talks with Columbia Sportswear between 2004 and 2007 under non-disclosure agreements.
According to the lawsuit, Columbia pulled the plug on the discussions in 2007, then soon after came out with its own heated jacket line. That’s when Innovative Sports sued Columbia and a few of the company’s subcontractors.
The lawsuit is still ongoing; however, Taylor says there’s new legal progress on his side. According to Taylor, Innovative Sports recently settled with Columbia’s battery subcontractor NCS Power Inc. and the company’s financial backer, the Allyn Group LLC. Taylor says the two companies have since been removed as co-defendants in the lawsuit.
“That basically validates part of our story at least, and you know, we're confident for the future, hoping this works out for the best,” said Taylor. “The biggest thing we're trying to do here is to preserve the technologies here that we pioneered also to make sure that this doesn't happen to another company in Oregon.”
On the other side, Columbia Sportswear’s legal counsel says the claims are frivolous. NewsSource 16 spoke with the company’s lead counsel Tim DeJong on Friday.
“Colby Taylor of Innovative Sports has concocted a fictional story apparently in an effort to generate publicity for his failed business and to smear Columbia Sportswear Company's reputation,” said DeJong.
DeJong says a judge already dismissed the case in December 2012, but it was brought back because Innovative Sports filed a new second amended complaint. DeJong also says Taylor has switched legal teams multiple times over the last year. He says that's an indication of the status of Taylor's argument.
“The fact is that Innovative Sports has no trade secrets. We've had the claims dismissed several times exactly because Innovative Sports has not been able to identify any trade secret that Columbia has supposedly used,” said DeJong.
A trial is currently slated for May 2013 in Lane County Circuit Court. According to court documents, Taylor is seeking nearly 24 million dollars worth of damages from Columbia Sportswear.
Both parties took part in a meeting in Lane County Circuit Court on Friday, February 22. It’s unknown what the outcome of that meeting was, as Judge Karsten Rasmussen has now issued a gag order in the case.
As for the current status of Columbia’s heated jackets, the batteries inside the jackets were recently recalled by the U.S. Federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission. Columbia also recently told The Oregonian newspaper that the company has discontinued any new styles of electrically heated products for the 2013-14 season.