Max Rack Inc., Columbus, Ohio, has been awarded $1.25 million in a federal jury trial against Core Health and Fitness, Vancouver, Washington, who Max Rack had accused of committing trademark infringement and various business law violations.
Core Health and Fitness is pursuing an appeal of the verdict, the company shared with Club Industry.
Max Rack is the developer of the Max Rack self-spotting weightlifting system, while Core Health and Fitness markets and distributes Star Trac, StairMaster, Nautilus and Schwinn products.
The lawsuit was first filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in 2016 and centered around a dispute over an expired licensing agreement. In 2006, Max Rack and Star Trac entered into an agreement under which Max Rack permitted Star Trac to use its patented technology for the manufacturing and sale of the Max Rack weightlifting system. The product was sold as the Star Trac Max Rack until 2015 when the licensing agreement expired. Since then, Star Trac parent entity Core Health and Fitness has continued to manufacture and sell a similar device rebranded as the Freedom Rack by Nautilus.
In court, Max Rack alleged that Core Health and Fitness committed various trademark and business law violations since 2015. The company claimed that Core Health and Fitness inconsistently used the Max Rack and Freedom Rack names, ultimately misleading consumers and damaging the Max Rack brand. Core Health and Fitness counterargued that any uses of the Max Rack brand name since 2015 were human error, quickly corrected and could not have caused measurable damage to Max Rack's image or business.
"Core Health asserts that no one could reasonably be confused about the source of the Freedom Rack by Nautilus device based on these few incidental, inadvertent 'Max Rack' references," Core Health and Fitness said in a Dec. 17 statement provided to Club Industry. "The jury disagreed and found Core Health liable for trademark infringement, awarding Max Rack substantial damages. Core Health strongly disagrees with the verdict, believes that it is not supported by any sufficient evidence and will pursue all available legal remedies to seek to have the verdict overturned."
Max Rack said a future court briefing will determine if enhanced damages and attorney fees can be awarded to the company, according to a Dec. 16 statement provided to Club Industry.
“We think the jury understood that Core Health was trying to confuse the public by using both the Max Rack and Freedom names interchangeably while marketing the exact same equipment, therefore damaging the Max Rack brand,” Max Rack attorney Joseph Okuley said in the statement. “The right side won this one.”