The patent infringement suit Vari-Lite launched against Martin Professional in the US took a new turn on August 17, as the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, temporarily vacated a preliminary injunction that prohibited Martin from selling four of its products in the US until July 5, 2000.

The injunction was issued late last month by the Federal District Court in Sherman, TX. Martin immediately appealed the decision to the Federal Circuit Court, which on August 17 ordered the judge in Sherman to reconsider the injunction due to what a statement released by Martin called "inadequate findings." The Danish manufacturer vows that if the District Court upholds its original order, it will again appeal the decision to the Circuit Court.

The decision came less than three weeks after the United States Federal District Court had granted Vari-Lite Inc. a preliminary injunction against Martin Gruppen A/S and Martin Professional A/S. The injunction had prohibited the companies and all their affiliates from making, using, selling, leasing, or offering for sale or lease in the United States, or importing into the US, the Martin MAC 600, 500, or 300, or the Case series controller in conjunction with any of those three products.

Prior to the decision, Vari-Lite had released a statement from Rusty Brutsche, president and CEO of Vari-Lite International, which read in part: "Vari-Lite is widely acknowledged as the originator of the automated lighting industry since we were the first to market a commercially viable automated lighting system. It is imperative that we protect the investment we make in research and development to enable us to fund our development of new technologies. The defense of our intellectual property rights is an important element of this process. The preliminary injunction granted by the court demonstrates the strength of our intellectual property rights. We hope the court's decision will cause other infringing parties to stop manufacturing, selling, or leasing infringing products."

Says Martin Group president and CEO Kristian Kolding, "Protective market measures have time and again proven to be detrimental to free market economies by limiting choice and artificially maintaining high prices. Our competitors should not think that patent issues can stop free market forces, the opening of markets to foreign competition, or the free flow of goods. Martin will fight to maintain a healthy and open competitive environment, not only for the benefit of its customers, but for the benefit of the lighting industry in the US as well."