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Judge doubles damages to 'Will it blend?' company to $22M

Published: Thursday, Jan. 27 2011 4:30 p.m. MST

Tom Dickson, owner and CEO of Orem-based K-TEC, stands with a Blendtec blender.

Blendtec

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has awarded additional damages to an Orem-based blending and mixing company that would double the company's winnings in a patent rights infringement case to a total of more than $22 million.

The ruling, issued by U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell Wednesday, awarded K-TEC, Inc. $11 million in enhanced damages in addition to the nearly $11 million that was awarded by a jury in June against competitor company Vita-Mix.

Brett Foster, who represented K-TEC through the nearly five-year legal struggle, said that with the additional damages, Vita-Mix currently owes K-TEC an additional $1.9 million and more post-verdict damages will most likely be awarded later.

"(The total amount), in my experience, is unprecedented," he said. "To my knowledge, it will become the largest patent infringement case in Utah. We're thrilled with that and it also makes a nice statement to people in this community that even a small Utah County company with the benefit of patent law can go up against the big dogs of the industry and find justice."

K-TEC is the company behind the Blendtec blenders that spawned the online ad campaign "Will it blend?," generating more than 300 million YouTube hits. In 2006, K-TEC filed suit against Vita-Mix, for infringing on patented technologies such as Blendtec's five-sided blending jar.

Following a 10-day jury trial in June, K-TEC was awarded $11 million. K-TEC then filed a motion asking Campbell to award enhanced damages, attorney's fees and payment of other losses, such as post-verdict damages.

Campbell outlined her decision in a 22-page ruling that said there were a number of elements that weighed "in favor of enhanced damages" in the case, including "deliberate copying," proof that Vita-Mix infringed K-Tec's patents willfully and intentionally and that they tried to conceal their infringing activity.

K-TEC attorneys were asking that the judge triple the jury's judgment, but Campbell said she awarded the amount she did because it struck a balance between sending a deterrent message and equalizing the two parties.

"Vita-Mix will not profit from its infringing sales yet it will not be crippled by the combined damage awards," Campbell wrote. 

The judge declined to award attorney's fees, but ordered Vita-Mix to pay taxable costs, post-verdict damages and pre- and post-judgment interest amounts on the grounds that Vita-Mix's infringement caused "irreparable injury" to K-TEC.

"Although K-TEC did not pursue damages based on price erosion and brand dilution, the evidence at trial did show that K-TEC’s sales declined as Vita-Mix infringed its patents," she wrote.

Campbell further implemented a permanent injunction that prevents Vita-Mix from "directly or indirectly manufacturing, using, offering for sale or selling the Vita-Mix MP container and XP container and any colorable imitations thereof" ever again.

Foster said both he and his client were "very pleased" with the judge's ruling.

"This was an egregious case of willful infringement and we think the punishment — as well the injunction — is an outstanding, excellent result." 

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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