Outdoors companies spar over sleeping bag design

Exxel Outdoors says California-based Marketfleet copied its sleeping bag design.

Exxel Outdoors says California-based Marketfleet copied its sleeping bag design.

The Boulder-based makers of a zipper-less sleeping bag are accusing a California competitor of rolling up their design and repackaging it as its own.

In a U.S. District Court case, Exxel Outdoors, the Boulder company that owns Sierra Designs, says Chico, California’s Marketfleet copied a Sierra Designs sleeping bag right down to the illustrations Exxel used in its marketing materials.

The lawsuit is the second time Exxel has gone to court to defend its intellectual property in as many months. It’s also the second time Marketfleet has been sued.

The complaint filed Jan. 18 in Denver claims Marketfleet lifted Exxel’s patented designs, including a feature that seals in a camper’s feet without using a zipper, Velcro or other fasteners. Exxel alleges its rival sells knockoffs under the brand Winterial and has, additionally, copied the patented appearance of Sierra Designs sleeping bags.

Exxel is asking for a court judgment acknowledging the alleged patent infringement and preventing Marketfleet from making or selling the offending products. Exxel also seeks monetary damages and reimbursement of legal costs.

Exxel Outdoors merged with American Recreation Products in April 2015, absorbing brands like Sierra Designs. Sierra Designs sells backpacks, tents and apparel, as well as sleeping bags.

Marketfleet’s sports and outdoor recreation products are just one category of a business that also includes kitchenware, camera accessories and pet supplies. In December, the company was sued in Massachusetts by a competitor that accuses it of infringing on a patent for a foldable pet ramp and steps set.

As for Exxel, the Boulder company says it first contacted Marketfleet in October, asking it to stop selling certain Winterial sleeping bags.

“We have notified Amazon.com of our patent rights and asked that they immediately remove the infringing product from its website,” said the October letter, included in court documents. “Winterial’s own website offers the infringing product for sale, and seems to use copies of proprietary Sierra Designs marketing materials to tout features of the infringing product.”

Exxel is being represented by Reid A. Page of Stinson Leonard Street in Greenwood Village, as well as two St. Louis-based colleagues at the same firm. Legal counsel declined to comment on the suit.

This is Exxel Outdoors’ second intellectual property dispute in recent memory. In December, the company sued a Florida man and his business for trademark infringement, claiming they sell knockoff Exxel tents on a website set up to mimic the website of Exxel’s tent brand, Wenzel.

Exxel also has found itself on the other side of intellectual property lawsuits. The Coleman Co. in 2006 sued Exxel for patent infringement on sleeping bag design elements. More recently, the pair sparred in Jefferson County court after a former Coleman salesman decamped to Exxel.

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