Yeti sues Wal-Mart for copyright infringement on tumbler knockoffs

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 5,999 views 

Austin, Texas-based Yeti Coolers filed suit against retail behemoth Wal-Mart Stores on Dec. 8, claiming the retailer violated trademark and copyrights by selling products that replicate those made by Yeti. The 20-page civil complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court Western District Austin Division.

The court is being asked to uphold Yeti’s copyright, trademark and trade dress of these products which Yeti claims is being violated with knock-off designs too similar to its core brand.

This is not the first time the two companies have tangled. Yeti sued Wal-Mart for similar claims in 2016. That suit was settled in March 2017. Yeti now says Wal-Mart has violated the terms of that sealed settlement and is continuing to sell similar products at much lower prices than those at Yeti.

The products singled out by Yeti in the complaint that are being replicated and sold by Wal-Mart include 20-ounce and 30-ounce insulated tumbler cups made by California Innovations under the private label brand Ozark Trail, as well as a metal Koozie to keep canned drinks insulated. Yeti also stated in the complaint there are products sold on Walmart.com that claim to carry the Yeti brand, but are being sold at greatly reduced prices over the official merchandise.

Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove told Talk Business & Politics it has worked hard to comply with the settlement agreement reached last year regarding Yeti-branded products. He said any products sold on Walmart.com with the Yeti brand are offered and fulfilled by third-party sellers, not Wal-Mart, and Yeti must make a complaint with those third-party sellers.

Hargrove said the merchandise named in the 2017 settlement is no longer being sold by Wal-Mart in stores and online as there has been a block in place on those items, which Hargrove confirmed is still in place.The retailer also said it will continue to defend itself against the latest claims. The new complaint accuses Wal-Mart of copying its Rambler design, which Yeti says is protected through Trade Dress, which includes the overall look, design and appearance of the tumbler cups.

Yeti claims in the complaint that Wal-Mart is making or having made infringing products that are confusingly similar to those sold by Yeti in the same sizes and shapes of those patented designs.

Yeti filed suits against six other companies last year making similar claims of copyright and trademark infringement. None of those cases have been settled to date. A jury trial is set in early 2019 for case involving Ontel Products. All the other cases are pending with Yeti requesting a jury trial in each suit.

Talk Business & Politics reviewed the Walmart.com site and found close similarities to the Yeti Ramblers in the Ozark Trail tumblers 20-ounce and 30-ounce products as well as the Koozie which Ozark Trails calls a can cooler, which are all sold by Walmart.com. The retailer contracts with California Innovations to manufacture Ozark Trail outdoor products such as camping gear, tents and insulated cups and coolers which are sold by Wal-Mart.

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