Big Stink Over Kitty Litter Boxes

     CHICAGO (CN) – Lucky Litter says its competitor Applica is running ads that violate Lucky’s “ScoopFree” trademark for kitty litter boxes. The federal complaint is the latest in a series of lawsuits between the companies, which are locked in a 2-year patent dispute over Lucky’s older ScoopFree self-cleaning litter box.

     Lucky’s ScoopFree litter boxes are used with its disposable litter tray and “Fresh Step Crystals” litter and can sit unattended for weeks. Applica’s self-cleaning “LitterMaid” litter box, unlike Lucky’s, cannot work with a disposable litter tray and forces customers to deal with “smelly cat waste,” Lucky Litter says
     To compete with the ScoopFree line, Applica advertised a forthcoming ScoopMaid replacement tray, touting that it “works with the ScoopFree Litter box,” according to the complaint. Lucky says Applica’s use of the ScoopFree mark is another attempt of many to drive Lucky out of business.
     In 2007, Applica filed two patent suits against Lucky, one in Texas and one with the International Trade Commission, alleging that the ScoopFree self-cleaning litter boxes infringed two of its patents. An ITC judge ruled that the boxes infringed on one of Applica’s patent claims and issued a limited exclusion order prohibiting importation of the box; the Texas suit remains pending.
     Lucky says it redesigned its self-cleaning litter boxes, stopped marketing its infringing models and began to market a new model without the infringing feature. It obtained a ruling from U.S. Customs that its new models may be imported and that the only products barred are the old models no longer sold.
     But in 2008, Applica contacted Lucky’s customers and claimed the patent determination required them to remove all of Lucky’s ScoopFree products from store shelves, including the redesigned self-cleaning boxes, which Applica said infringed its patent, according to the complaint.
     More recently, Applica threatened to sue Lucky’s customers for past infringement based on its sale of Lucky’s prior self-cleaning boxes unless the customers stop buying Lucky’s disposable litter trays and instead buy Applica’s ScoopMaid trays for use with Lucky’s ScoopFree litter boxes.
     Lucky has sent two cease and desist letters to Applica, but says it has received no response.

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