A lawsuit filed by Hayward Industries against AquaStar Pool Products has been settled.
Equipment manufacturer Hayward Industries accused AquaStar, a parts producer, of cybersquatting, trademark infringement, design patent infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, false advertising, trademark dilution and breach of contract.
AquaStar denied all charges.
Terms of the settlement are confidential, said sources from both companies. “We amicably settled the entire lawsuit,” said Olaf Mjelde, co-founder of AquaStar, based in San Diego. “Everybody’s happy with the settlement.”
Besides its well-known line of suction outlet covers, AquaStar also sells the ProStar line of replacement parts, some of which are suited to Hayward’s Navigator, Pool Vac and Arneson brand automatic cleaners. In the complaint filed in July 2010, Hayward said this aspect of AquaStar’s business infringed on a design patent and that the parts were sold in a misleading manner.
“AquaStar is advertising and promoting these parts in a manner to intentionally confuse consumers into believing that they are genuine Hayward replacement parts made by Hayward,” the Elizabeth, N.J.-based manufacturer stated in its court filing.
Among other things, Hayward took issue with AquaStar’s former ownership of the domain name www.HaywardReplacementParts.com, claiming that it constituted an unauthorized use of the firm’s trademark and was meant to confuse consumers. When a potential purchaser would access the Web address, he or she automatically would be directed to a ProStar Web page, according to the complaint.
“The domain name ... likely will cause dilution of the Hayward [trademark,]” the plaintiff stated in its filing documents, later adding, “Indeed, AquaStar’s sole purpose in acquiring the domain name ... was to promote its business by capitalizing upon the goodwill in the Hayward mark at the expense of Hayward.”
AquaStar’s response, filed in August 2010, stated that the company had previously owned the domain name and redirected Web browsers to its ProStar Website, but added that neither of those things was true any longer. The firm also denied that the domain name infringed upon Hayward’s trademark, or that it had any bad-faith intent in using the Web address.
Hayward also claimed that a patent on the ornamental design for its pool cleaner housing was still in effect and that by selling replacement parts for the cleaners, AquaStar infringed on Hayward’s patent. In its court-filed response, AquaStar denied that assertion.
Hayward stated that AquaStar had a history of infringing on Hayward’s trademarks, based on contention between the two companies over two brands. AquaStar denied that it was guilty of such infringement. This accusation dates back to the past few years, when Hayward objected to AquaStar’s Flow-Max brand, which the plaintiff contended matches too closely its own Max-Flo label. The two companies also feuded over the Clear Choice mark, which Hayward has used for filters and AquaStar has used for plumbing fittings, including drain covers.
Hayward asked the court to enjoin AquaStar from using the Flow-Max or Clear Choice or similar brands; using www.HaywardReplacementParts.com or infringing on Hayward’s trademarks; or selling the pool-cleaner replacement parts depicted in AquaStar’s catalog. Hayward also asked the court for damages and profits “realized by AquaStar by reason of its unlawful acts. ...”
AquaStar claimed its use of Hayward’s name and trademarks is protected by the First Amendment and falls under the doctrine of nominative fair use, which allows companies to use others’ trademarks without their consent in certain instances, such as to describe or compare with its own product, and in certain ways, such as using the minimum elements of a company’s trademark as necessary to reflect the brand. The defendant also said Hayward has suffered no damages.
Mjelde said AquaStar would continue to sell its ProStar parts.