Patent-Infringement Cases Against the North Face and Columbia Can Move Forward, Judge Rules
The materials company Cocona Labs has convinced a Colorado district court to reopen two separate IP suits it has pursued since 2016
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
A Colorado district judge ruled late last month that Colorado-based Cocona Labs, creators of 37.5 Technology, can move forward with two separate lawsuits accusing The North Face (TNF) and Columbia of patent infringement.
The two cases date to 2016, when Cocona sued VF Corporation (TNF’s parent company) and Columbia Sportswear Co., alleging that the apparel brands had illegally incorporated Cocona’s patent-protected thermoregulating technology into their products.
In response, The North Face filed a petition with the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) to challenge the validity of several of Cocona’s patent claims. PTAB ruled that one of those claims was, in fact, invalid—but two were upheld. When the North Face appealed PTAB’s decision, a court of appeals affirmed the ruling.
With this latest development in Colorado, both cases will now reopen and move forward.
“We were expecting to come back to Colorado district court last year, but that was delayed because of VF and Columbia filing extensive motions that the cases shouldn’t move forward,” says Blair Kanis, general counsel for Cocona. “Now that a Colorado district court has said the case is moving ahead, we expect to have a court date set within the next month.”
Kanis says that once the case reopens, she expects it will be at least 18 months before a final verdict is reached, and possibly much longer.
“If we win this case, it will get appealed,” says Cocona CEO Jeff Bowman. “It will go on, unless we’re able to settle at some point. Even though it’s been five years and a million-dollar investment, we’re looking at another two to three years.”
Despite the time and cost, investment in the lawsuits has been worth it for Cocona from a business perspective, according to Bowman. “Our business is developing and licensing IP,” he says. “Incumbent on the business model is the need to protect that IP. Otherwise, what do you have? You have to assume there’s a win on the back side that’s worth the investment.”
Both VF and Columbia declined to comment.