MARSHALL, Texas (CN) - A federal judge imposed sanctions against PetVac Group for dodging court-ordered discovery in a patent-infringement action over pet-grooming tools.
PetVac Group in a nine-page complaint filed in the Eastern District of Texas, claiming its competitor had committed patent infringement by selling an imitation of the FURminator DeShedding Tools.
St. Louis-based FURmintor said its founders Angela and David Porter drew on Angela's experience in pet grooming and "great personal financial risk" to create hand-held, pet-hair removers.
The dream paid off, with Furminator counting QVC, PetSmart and Petco as its customers. The company said it has "received numerous accolades."
FURminator claimed PetVac's ShedEliminator infringes on its patent, and it submitted a picture of the tool that resembles the photographed FURminator product.
U.S. District Judge T. John Ward granted FURminator's second motion to strike and its renewed motion to strike and for sanctions.
In a 12-page memorandum opinion and order, Ward describes the actions in which PetVac and its attorney, Kent Rowald, engaged as they disregarded multiple court orders.
Ward explained that the court demanded a response from PetVac regarding FURminator's second motion to strike pleadings, in which FURminator brought up PetVac's violation of the discovery order.
On the day of the response deadline set by the court, PetVac said it had previously emailed FURminator attorney Jonathan Musch, discussing production. FURminator denied receiving the email and claimed the copy PetVac turned in to the court was a possible forgery.
As FURminator dug further into whether PetVac's attorney, Rowald, sent the email, Rowald claimed his computer had been stolen. He then failed to comply with a subpoena
that FURminator obtained from the Southern District of Texas during its investigation of the email.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt granted FURminator's motion for contempt and to compel compliance with the subpoena in the Southern District. Hoyt also ordered Rowald to pay FURminator's related attorneys' fees and costs.
In the meantime, FURminator went to Google, and, by subpoena, confirmed that Rowald had not sent the email.
Ward ordered the entry of default and judgment by default in FURminator's favor. He also ordered PetVac to pay FURminator for the attorneys' fees and expenses that came out of the email investigation.
"To the extent PetVac might argue that the Court is sanctioning the company for actions of its counsel Mr. Rowald, PetVac would be misplaced," Ward wrote. PetVac had repeatedly shirked the court's orders, doing so even before Rowald's involvement as its attorney, the judge said.
FURminator asked for a permanent injunction against PetVac, which the court will address on Aug. 23, along with the matter of how much PetVac should pay in damages.