The latest development in the ongoing legal battle between two of the industry's most prominent automated lighting companies took place on June 12, when the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed an injunction issued in September 1999 by a US District Court against Martin Gruppen A/S and Martin Professional A/S. The injunction had been appealed by Martin.

This injunction prohibits Martin Gruppen A/S, Martin Professional A/S, and all their affiliates from making, selling, leasing, or offering for sale or lease in the US, or importing into the US, the Martin MAC 600, MAC 500, or MAC 300, or the Case Series Controller in conjunction with any of those products. Vari-Lite contends that these products violate one of its patents.

In a separate hearing, Martin filed a motion asking the District Court to lift the injunction in July 2000, the date when Martin claimed that Vari-Lite's patent would expire. The court denied Martin's motion and ruled that the patent held by Vari-Lite does not expire until March 2001.

"I am pleased that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed our injunction against Martin and that the lower court agreed that the injunction does not expire until March 2001," said Rusty Brutsche, chairman and chief executive officer of Vari-Lite. He added, "We will continue to prepare for trial in the Federal Court in October 2000, and persist in vigorously defending our intellectual property rights."

Speaking of the latest developments, Martin CEO Kristian Kolding said, "Although we are disappointed by the recent decision made by the US Court of Appeals in Washington, we are confident that with products such as the MAC 600NT, MAC 500SP, and the soon-to-be-launched MAC 2000 series, we will secure a healthy position in the American market. MAC luminaires will retain a visible presence as important lighting tools for lighting professionals. And the MAC 2001, which is just around the corner, will only add to our market strength in the US."

In the European market, Vari-Lite plans this month to complete the sale of its operations in Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Sweden to an investment company that owns Focus Showequipment BV in Amsterdam. The investment firm's strategy will build on the reputation of both Focus Showequipment (Amsterdam) and EML (Brussels/Utrecht), both leading production services companies in Benelux. Together with operations built by Vari-Lite in France and Sweden, the purchaser intends to develop a branded international network of professional organizations in Northern and Western Europe (in the Netherlands, VLPS Amsterdam/EML will be integrated with the local operations of Focus Showequipment).

"The sale of our continental European operations will allow the company to focus its attention on the development, manufacture, and sale of its automated lighting systems and continued operation of our rental and production services offices in North America, Asia, and London," says Brutsche. VLPS has also sold its Madrid operation, as it establishes London as its European hub for regional sales and rentals.