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Court OKs Weber Infringement Suit Against Sears

A  U.S. district court has given Weber the green light to sue Sears over certain Kenmore Elite gas grills that bore a strong resemblance to its own models.

Weber-Stephen Products first filed the suit two years ago, claiming its Genesis and Summit gas grills had been carried by Sears until similarly-looking Kenmore models replaced them in 2012.

According to a report in the Cook County Record, the Kenmore grills shared many of the same distinct designs elements as the originals, including metal bands on the edges of the grill shroud with exposed rivets, shiny door edges on the grill cart, shiny horizontal tubular door and lid handles, and a product logo on a corner of the side table.

Sears tried to have the suit dismissed, arguing that Weber can’t prove consumers confused the Kenmore models with the manufacturer’s. But the plaintiff contends that at least one consumer purchased the Kenmore version thinking it was a Weber, and said another retailer called the company to complain about what he assumed was a private-label agreement with Sears.

No agreement existed, and emails and other documents support Weber’s infringement claims, noted U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang. These include an email from a Sears product manager indicating that the Kenmore grills were designed with the hope that consumers would look at them and “think of the market share leader, Weber,” Chang said.

“This copying evidence, taken together with Weber’s other evidence, is enough to warrant a trial,” he ruled.

Weber said it sold about 1.4 million of the Genesis and Summit models between 2007 and 2012, and spent $59 million in advertising to promote them.