LG Electronics USA Inc. asked a federal court jury to award it $60 million in profits the company’s attorney said Whirlpool Corp. reaped by falsely advertising the steam capabilities of its clothes dryers.
LG lawyer Lawrence Desideri made his request to the panel of 10 women and one man today at the start of what is expected to be a three-week trial at the U.S. courthouse in Chicago.
“Whirlpool falsely represented that its dryers created and used steam,” when in reality they didn’t, Desideri said. That misrepresentation, he said, injured consumers and his client, a unit of Seoul-based LG.
This is the third legal clash between the appliance manufacturers this year as Whirlpool in March won a $1.78 million judgment against LG in a fight over patented refrigerator technology. One month earlier, the American company lost a bid to have its rival’s refrigerators banned from the U.S. market.
Both companies claim to make a dryer that removes wrinkles and odors from clothing using hot water vapor.
Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 2007 brought to market its Duet dryer, which injected a cold-water mist into the heated dryer drum, which its attorney today said created steam.
Six months later, LG introduced a unit that heated water past 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) to vaporize it, then injected the resultant cloud into a slowly tumbling cold dryer.
“You don’t need two sources of heat to create steam,” Whirlpool attorney Stephen Morrison told the jury today in his own opening statement.
A dryer in which the air temperature is 150 degrees and some of the drum surfaces reach 300 degrees does the same job as the LG model featuring a “teapot type of thing,” he said.
Desideri said Whirlpool had sold more than 600,000 of its steam dryer units, reaping $346 million in revenue by violating U.S. and Illinois false-advertising laws.
“It doesn’t boil water. It doesn’t create steam,” the LG lawyer said.
“They want to define steam in their own way,” Morrison countered, hewing to a theme of clothes, consumer choice and competition. “This case ought to be decided in the showroom, not the courtroom,” he said.
The U.S. International Trade Commission in February ruled LG hadn’t violated a Whirlpool patent on ice storage. One month later, Whirlpool won its judgment against LG after a seven-day trial in Wilmington, Delaware, in which a jury also rejected an LG claim of patent infringement.
The Chicago case was filed in January 2008.
The case is LG Electronics USA Inc. v. Whirlpool Corp., 08cv242, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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