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MORRIS SUES KONECRANES FOR UNFAIR COMPETITION


Thursday, 23 Oct 2003 ( #130 ) - OAK CREEK, WI, United States
News Story
Morris Material Handling Inc has sued KCI Konecranes International PLC for "egregious and systematic violation" of intellectual property and "acts of unfair competition".

The suit was filed on October 7 in the US District Court in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The complaints include infringement and unfair competition related to federal, state and common-law trademark protections; false advertising; and fraudulent representation under a Wisconsin statute.

Plaintiffs include privately-held Oak Creek-based Morris Material Handling, subsidiaries SPH Crane & Hoist Inc, of Milwaukee, MHE Technologies Inc, of Wilmington, Delaware, and affiliated licensor Harnischfeger Technologies Inc, also of Wilmington.

Morris was founded in the 1880s as an operating division of Harnischfeger Corp, in Milwaukee, and, during the mid-1990s, was known as the P&H Crane Division. In March 1998, Harnischfeger sold 80% of the division, which adopted the Morris identity.

Morris has an exclusive licence from Harnischfeger to use the P&H trademark in the industrial crane and hoist business.

Publicly-traded KCI Konecranes, based in Hyvinkää, Finland, has major global overhead crane and hoist operations, including its US unit, fellow defendant KCI Konecranes Inc, of Springfield, Ohio. The parent company had profit of EUR24.6 million (USD25.8 million) on 2002 sales of EUR713.6 million (USD748.1 million) and, at December 31, employed 4,441 persons.

Morris alleges Konecranes and affiliates misused the P&H trademark in Canada in September 1999, misused the Morris trademark in Canada in December 2001 and distributed inappropriate marketing material and passed off non-P&H aftermarket parts as genuine P&H parts in April 2003.

Morris said it complained in letters to Konecranes management. In response, Konecranes "denied undertaking any wrongful conduct", the Morris suit said. "Defendants and their affiliates have continued to misuse and misappropriate plaintiffs' intellectual rights, all for the purpose (of) diverting business and customers" from Morris to Konecranes. Numerous examples are cited in the litigation.

The suit identifies three Konecranes-related websites on which Morris trademarks are listed.

Morris has requested a jury trial and intends to pursue an award for punitive damages and "actual damages to be proven at trial", the suit said. Initially, Morris wants the court to prevent Konecranes from continuing the alleged actions.

The suit said Konecranes' US market expansion had included purchases of "Shepard Niles, Crane Manufacturing and Kranco". In addition, Konecranes "has aggressively but unsuccessfully attempted to purchase all or portions of the Morris Group on several occasions since 1997", according to the suit.

Konecranes had not responded to the suit before deadline.
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