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Orem blender company wins massive patent infringement award

By Jim Dalrymple - Daily Herald - | Sep 11, 2012

An Orem company famous for its popular “Will it Blend” YouTube videos won a massive appeal last week against a company that tried to rip off its unique blender design.

According to Salt Lake City-based attorney Mark Miller, a ruling issued Thursday by the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a pair of judgments in favor of Blendtec. The ruling determined that Ohio-based Vitamix had willfully copied the design of a Blendtec blending jar. The judgment requires Vitamix to pay more than $24 million for patent infringement.

Blendtec president David Beck said the origins of the case date back to 2001, when CEO Tom Dickson showed up to work on Memorial Day weekend, cut up several existing blender jars and glued them together to create something new. The resulting jar had five sides and dramatically changed blender technology, Beck said.

“When you have that fifth side it actually makes it so the vortex doesn’t stay in the center, it actually moves around,” Beck explained. “In 7 seconds it can make a drink.”

Beck added that the increased speeds and shifting blending vortex were ground-breaking and unique to Dickson’s design.

According to court documents, Blendtec patented the jar in 2005. The court documents include detailed descriptions and diagrams from Blendtec’s patent filing.

However, the documents also allege that the design was stolen by Vitamix. Over several pages, Miller and other attorneys argue that Vitamix knew about Blendtec’s unique jar and the related patents, but decided to copy and sell it anyway. The documents call on U.S. District Court judges to penalize Vitamix and prohibit the company from selling products based on Blendtec’s jar.

The case went to trial in June 2010. Beck said that during the trial a Vitamix employee testified that Blendtec’s design could do twice the amount of work in half the time as a traditional blender. He also said that the two jars were almost indistinguishable when held side-by-side. In some cases, he added, parts such as lids were even interchangeable.

“When you look at the two you can hardly tell the difference,” Beck said.

Miller said the jury eventually ruled that Vitamix had infringed on Blendtec’s patents. Blendtec was awarded $11 million, which award was then doubled in early 2011 when a judge ruled the infringement had been deliberate.

Vitamix appealed the decision, but on Thursday a three-judge panel in a patent-specific, Washington, D.C., appeals court unanimously upheld the ruling. With interest, the award topped out at more than $24 million. Blendtec spokesman Tim Provost said the judgment is the largest ever awarded for patent infringement in Utah.

Miller described the decision as a satisfying conclusion to the case. He also explained that patent law functioned properly to protect Blendtec’s design.

“This is a case where Tom Dickson invented a blending jar that kind of changed the industry and Vitamix copied the jar,” he added.

Beck agreed, saying that it was difficult to see a larger competitor copy the jar so exactly.

Representatives for Vitamix could not be reached Monday afternoon. However, Miller said he believes the ruling finally ends the case and will allow Blendtec to collect its money.

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