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BJI files patent infringement lawsuits against Lloyd/Flanders and Laneventure

Casual Living Worldwide Inc., doing business as BJI Inc., filed lawsuits alleging patent infringements against Flanders Industries, Inc. and Lane Furniture Industries in federal court in Louisville, Ky. Both manufacturers have now responded to the complaint, filed in late March in U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky, Louisville Division.

The lawsuits allege certain synthetic woven products sold by Lloyd/Flanders and Laneventure infringe upon one or more of the 60 patents BJI bought from Sun Isle in early November. The lawsuits seek jury trials and to force Lloyd/Flanders and Laneventure to stop selling those products and to pay monetary damages to BJI.

Chris Carmicle, president of BJI's national accounts and direct imports division said, "We paid for these technologies and are not going to sit back and allow others to reap benefits while violating our patents. We're hoping these legal actions will be a key opportunity to educate manufacturers and retailers on the existence of this intellectual property."

Carmicle stressed the importance of protecting BJI's intellectual property portfolio. "Woven outdoor and transitional furniture, particularly deep seating, continues to be the fastest growing segment in the outdoor marketplace, and the innovative patent-protected Sun Isle technologies are a main driver in this growth."

The complaint against Lloyd/Flanders stems from 1998 patents Larry Schwartz received while owner of Sun Isle USA for a synthetic yarn having wicker appearance and the products it is used to produce. In March 2005, Sun Isle USA filed a claim in New Jersey against Flanders Industries saying its synthetic wicker furniture products infringed the patent. The two sides agreed to a voluntary dismissal in September 2005 to permit time to discuss settlement but the civil action was not settled, according to the filing.

Lloyd/Flanders President Dudley Flanders said he is aware of the lawsuit filed by Casual Living Worldwide concerning the two patents. Sun Isle had filed a similar suit two years ago against Lloyd/Flanders but had withdrawn the suit prior to trial, he said, and added Lloyd/Flanders is confident it does not infringe upon any valid patent with any of its products.

"The Lloyd Company has been manufacturing wicker furniture from a variety of materials for over 100 years and we feel we are innovators in the industry, not imitators," Flanders said.

The Lane lawsuit refers to patents Schwartz received in 2004 and 2006 for synthetic woven yarns made using twisted polymer filaments. Laneventure, a division of Lane Furniture Industries, Inc., was made aware of the lawsuit filed by Casual Living Worldwide dba BJI, Inc., alleging Laneventure's Harbor Breeze Collection infringes two of the patents recently acquired by BJI in its purchase of certain assets of Sun Isle USA.

"We are actively reviewing the infringement allegations with our lawyers to try and understand BJI's claims," said Arthur C. Thompson, Laneventure president and CEO. "At this point, we see absolutely no substance to the lawsuit and BJI's claims of patent infringement, and plan to vigorously contest these allegations."

Laneventure, a member of the Furniture Brands International family of companies, has produced premium furniture for 30 years, and was the first to introduce premium indoor/outdoor natural wicker furniture to the marketplace, according to a company statement. Laneventure is a leading producer of fine indoor and outdoor wicker furniture, operating finishing, upholstery and distribution facilities in Conover, N.C., along with frame factories in Asia and Central America.

"It has always been the policy of Laneventure to respect the rights of others and to defend our company's intellectual property rights when called into question," Thompson said. "However, our company policy prohibits further comment on matters in litigation."

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