SHANGHAI—Ever since the advent of mechanical locking systems there has been one patent infringement lawsuit after another. While cross-licensing agreements have helped to curtail some of the legal action, the lawsuit merry-go-round continues. Those who hold the patents contend they are not just suing to defend their intellectual property rights, but to protect those companies that are playing by the rules and legally obtain licenses to use the technology. At the recent Domotex asia/ChinaFloor (DACF) show here (FCNews, April 5/12), Flooring Industries—the Luxembourg, Belgium-based intellectual property company within Mohawk Industries’ Unilin Group—unveiled a program designed to cut down on lawsuits throughout the selling chain while giving licensees a unique marketing tool.
The program, License To Clic label on boxes, allowing them to be quickly and easily identified as approved partners. Bart Van der Stockt, managing director of Flooring Industries, said L2C was developed in part because many distributors and importers from around the world often say it’s confusing to know if a company is really licensed. “Many times a manufacturer will produce official looking papers even though it never obtained a license from us.” Though the company still uses the legal system to prevent intellectual property theft, he added, We’d much rather use a soft approach before having to go to court.”
Van der Stockt pointed out in North America the company can go after anyone in the supply chain except the end user when it comes to patent infringement. “We don’t like to do that. So we’ve been looking at ways to not only protect our brand and investment but to help those throughout the selling chain to figure out if a product is licensed or not.”
L2C, he stressed, is only for products made in China. “In the last two to three years the country has really stepped up and its awareness of intellectual property is increasing—we have granted licenses to almost 60 companies. Nonetheless, it is still where the uncertainty and need for such a program is the greatest because many Chinese manufacturers still sell FOB to importers as well as private label goods.”
The new L2C labels come in three colors—blue, purple and green. The blue version is for cartons being sent to the U.S., purple is for products sold within China and the green label is for all other areas of the world.
Because of its holographic nature, Van der Stockt said the labels will be very difficult for a company to copy. Even so, Flooring Industries will supply the appropriate labels to each licensee to help prevent them from being used illegally.
In addition, the company is educating the various governmental agencies that inspect goods coming into their country about the L2C label and what to look for to validate its authenticity. “So, for distributors and importers in countries like the U.S.,” he concluded, “if you want no headaches and to sleep well at night knowing you are selling legally made products, look for the blue L2C label on the cartons before accepting them.”
For more information on the L2C program, contact Flooring Industries at 011.352.2700.4181, or Mohawk at 800.241.4494.