Only trust the original and best
AutoSock are taking robust action against patent infringement and want their customers to be aware of the situation; these notes are a summary of their recent statements on this issue.
AutoSock created and developed the "car snow sock" concept, and is the registered holder of all relevant patents. Their main European Patent is EP 1165329 which is operational in all European countries. They have similar patent protection in North America and Japan.
After the last two UK and Irish winters there are unprecedented numbers of copies in these markets; legal activity for patent infringement is either in progress or may be taken against many of these distributors and resellers, some of whom are household names and must have been very badly advised.
Some of the copies and counterfeits are relatively very cheap - as products can be if there are no research and development costs, and if materials and manufacture are of poor quality.
We hope that our potential fleet customers in particular will wish to be confident that the products they use have proper product liability insurance, as AutoSock has.
Some of the distributors of copy products seem to be taking leave of their senses and are making increasingly extravagant claims. These might include
- Statements about German and Austrian testing agency approvals (TÜV and ÖNORM). Some do indeed have these approvals; some claim to have them but do not.
- Statements about the patents they have registered. This is a "smoke and mirrors" trick, designed to deceive. We usually use a wrist watch as an analogy for this sort of activity: AutoSock has patented the bit of the watch that tells the time, the relevant bit; others have taken out irrelevant patents on e.g. the strap fixings, but they still attach the "patented" word to the whole product.
- Warnings to "Beware of copies!" (Some credit should be given to resellers who have at least attempted to write their own copy instead of lifting it from official AutoSock sites!)
- Warnings to "Beware of Chinese copies," apparently forgetting that their products are themselves made in China. There is nothing wrong with being "Made in China" - what is foolish is to presume that the factories who make and sell this stuff at knockdown prices are authorised to do so.
Recent EU court decisions include:
- A preliminary injunction against Siepa and its Austrian and German distributors by the Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, Germany. The penalty for a violation of the judgment is up to €250,000 per incident. Siepa brands include Goodyear and Fix&Go.
- An injunction against the Trendy distributor in Norway by the Court of Telemark. Trendy branded products have been withdrawn.
- A preliminary injunction against one embodiment of WeissSock by the Higher District Court of Düsseldorf. The penalty for a violation of the judgment is up to €250,000 per incident.
- A preliminary injunction against one embodiment of MultiGrip by the Higher District Court of Düsseldorf. The penalty for a violation of the judgment is up to €250,000 per incident.