By Eric Schweibenz
On May 11, 2011, Thompson/Center Arms Co., Inc. (“Thompson”) and Smith & Wesson Corp. (“S&W”) (collectively, “Complainants”) – both of Springfield, Massachusetts – filed a complaint requesting that the ITC commence an investigation pursuant to Section 337.

The complaint alleges that the following entities (collectively, the “Proposed Respondents”) unlawfully import into the U.S., sell for importation, and/or sell within the U.S. after importation certain muzzle-loading firearms and components thereof that infringe U.S. Patent Nos. 7,908,781 (the ‘781 patent), 7,814,694 (the ‘694 patent), 7,140,138 (the ‘138 patent), 6,604,311 (the ‘311 patent), 5,782,030 (the ‘030 patent), and 5,639,981 (the ‘981 patent) (collectively, the “asserted patents”):

  • Dikar Sociedad Cooperativa Limitada of Spain

  • Bergara Barrels Europe of Spain

  • Blackpowder Products Inc. of Duluth, Georgia

  • Connecticut Valley Arms of Duluth, Georgia

  • Bergara Barrels North America, Duluth, Georgia

  • Ardesa Firearms of Spain

  • Traditional Sporting Goods, Inc. d/b/a Traditions Sporting Firearms of Old Saybrook, Connecticut

According to the complaint, the asserted patents “relate to a firing mechanism, barrel, and structural components used to close the rear of the barrel of long guns and pistols.”  Specifically, the ‘781 patent “is directed to a muzzle-loading firearm having break-open action that allows access to the breech plug.”  The ‘694 patent “is directed to a muzzle-loading firearm having a breech plug, a barrel with an initial portion, and a deformable seal in front of a threaded engagement.”  The ‘138 patent “is directed to a firearm having a hammer and a spur” and “teaches using a removable fastener to allow the spur to [be] moveable among [a] plurality of positions.”  The ‘311 patent “is directed to a lever-operated muzzle-loading firearm and a method of discharging a muzzle-loaded firearm having a barrel with a breech-end and incorporated therein a removable breech plug.”  The ‘030 patent “is directed to a method for making an improved barrel for a muzzle-loading firearm” and “teaches using [a] tool to enlarge the muzzle end of the barrel to provide a smooth muzzle end that is slightly larger than the rifled section of the barrel.”  The ‘981 patent “is directed to an improved barrel for [ ] muzzle-loading firearms.”

In the complaint, Complainants allege that the Proposed Respondents import and sell products that infringe the asserted patents.  The complaint specifically identifies a number of accused products that are produced by the various Proposed Respondents.  According to the complaint, the accused products include an engraving on the side of the frame indicating that such products are manufactured in Spain.

Regarding domestic industry, Complainants assert that Thompson has made significant investments in plant and equipment, significant employment of labor and capital, and substantial investments in exploitation of the asserted patents.  With respect to the economic prong of the domestic industry requirement, Complainants assert, among other things, that Thompson currently utilizes two facilities in the U.S. – located in Rochester, New Hampshire and Springfield, Massachusetts – for the manufacture, distribution, and/or repair of its firearms covered by the asserted patents.  The complaint also asserts that S&W has a license to the asserted patents and has been manufacturing firearms in the U.S. since 1852 and presently manufactures its firearms in the same Springfield, Massachusetts facility used by Thompson.  Regarding the technical prong of the domestic industry requirement, Complainants assert that Thompson’s Encore™ models practice at least one claim of each of the asserted patents.

As to related litigation, Complainants assert that contemporaneous with the filing of this Complaint, they will file an action in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the Proposed Respondents for patent infringement.

With respect to potential remedy, Complainants request that the Commission issue a permanent exclusion order and permanent cease and desist orders directed at the Proposed Respondents.