A lingering dispute between a fiberglass manufacturer and a former
dealer could be resolved before it hits the courtroom.
In mid-July, Viking Pools offered to settle at least some of the
issues raised in a lawsuit filed by River Pools & Spas in U.S.
District Court in Richmond, Va., according to legal
The suit, filed in April, accused Viking Pools, its parent company
Latham International and various subsidiaries of setting up
Websites with domain names that included “riverpools”
to divert business from River Pools & Spas of Warsaw, Va., to
its own companies.
A countersuit filed by Viking in June accused River Pools of
engaging in “a non-stop campaign to disparage and defame
Viking, its dealers and its products, and to mislead, confuse and
indeed to scare Viking’s customers and potential
customers.” It seeks a permanent injunction against River
Pools and co-owner Marcus Sheridan, as well as unspecified monetary
River Pools was an authorized Viking dealer until the two companies
severed ties in May 2008. Viking said it terminated the partnership
because River Pools stopped promoting its products; River Pools
contended that it voluntarily stopped selling Viking’s
products two months prior to any official word from the
manufacturer, according to court documents.
Regardless of the circumstances, the friction worsened after
Sheridan began criticizing Viking online, including in his blog,
riverpoolsandspas.com/blog. He also produced an e-book
titled How to Buy a Swimming Pool the Right Way, From the Right
Company, at the Right Price, which is available on his
Website, www.poolschool.us. The 50-page account discusses
the business practices and product quality of numerous fiberglass
manufacturers, including Viking, which earned a C- grade from
Soon after the book’s publication, Viking President Todd
Stahl released on his company’s Website a chapter-by-chapter
review of Sheridan’s manual that began: “Right from the
start it becomes painfully obvious that this e-book was written by
a sixth grade girl or a disgruntled ex-dealer. His lack of
experience within the fiberglass pool industry is one thing, but
his lack of experience within the entire pool industry becomes
Then, in March 2009, a handful of Websites, including
www.riverpools.net, www.riverpoolsvirginia.com and
www.riverpoolsva.com appeared online, according to court
documents. Telephone numbers and links on those sites were
connected to Websites and call centers associated with Composite
Pools, a Latham subsidiary, court documents alleged.
“After their Websites went up, I started getting calls from
people who said they were looking for me and instead got a company
in West Virginia,” Sheridan said, referencing a Latham
The River Pools suit alleges that Viking’s actions constitute
cybersquatting, a practice banned in 1999 by federal law.
After a complaint filed by River Pools with the World Intellectual
Property Organization in June 2010, Viking agreed to take down the
disputed Websites and relinquish the domain names.
When reached by phone, Latham President/Chief Executive Mark Laven
declined to comment on pending litigation.
By press time, the two sides were hashing out prospects for a
pre-trial settlement, according to Sheridan.
“I don’t want Viking to be the focus of what I do
anymore,” he added. “My blog is respected by consumers
— I have hundreds of followers, and I want the focus to be on
elevating the industry and educating the public.”