I find this fascinating, personally. I have already described that there is a flaw in this product - and yet the patent infringement lawsuit was filed against a product that, in my view, may have CORRECTED the flaw.
Let's see what I'm talking about. Here are two images from the lawsuit that was filed (linked above):
It's difficult to tell from the quality of the "Defendant's Product" images, but it appears to me the Defendant in this case may have corrected the high-heel-catching design problem that users of TSDC's patented product have experienced and reported.
Remember this image, again from my previous blog post?
Notice in the Patent illustration above, how unnecessarily wide the gap is - in order to accommodate a relatively narrow hook? The gap is literally big enough to trap a high heel.
That The Sliding Door Company's design can trap a high-heeled shoe becomes more obvious when one considers that the rounded top of the hook works as a funnel to jamb the heel into the track.
When the heel is pulled out, the sharp edge of the hook traps the heel. Again, this was reported by TSDC's own employees AND customers.
Now, let's look at Defendant's track. Does it look like a high-heel can get jammed in there? It's hard to know for sure, but the gap in the defendant's product doesn't look nearly as wide to me. Indeed, it appears that a high heel would be prevented from falling into the gap by the rounded knob that the roller will ride on. It's a very different design... other than the hooking element. And seriously, the "hooking" element is nothing new. Anybody who has been around a roller coaster knows this is how roller-coaster wheels are made to stay on the track... they ALL hook underneath.
I'm guessing The Sliding Door Company won this case. I took a peek at the Defendant's website to see if they have abandoned their bottom track design, and it appears they have. Oddly, the company has a subsidiary called Chaparral which is a name I remember from my very first week working at The Sliding Door Company. I essentially found their EXACT same extrusion being used by another company and selling their product at Lowes. I wondered at the time who this Chaparral company was and why our product was being sold by them. Now, after seeing TSDC in action, I'm not so sure who ripped who off.
Remember this blog post? To save 15 cents per bracket, TSDC decided to forego engineering and product testing and simply copy an engineered and tested bracket by Simpson Strong-Tie. Building inspectors accustomed to seeing the Simpson tie can easily mistake TSDC's bracket for an engineered and tested product by Simpson.
|Untested knock-off STRUCTURAL tie by TSDC|
|Engineered and tested STRUCTURAL tie by Simpson|