Sept. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. was sued by an Illinois company that says the maker of household goods is infringing a patent for “Protect-A-Bed” mattress covers designed to keep bedbugs from biting sleepers.
JAB Distributors LLC claims the Martha Stewart Collection Allergy Wise Mattress Protector is using its invention without permission. Closely held JAB is seeking a court order to prevent further use, plus unspecified cash compensation, according to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Chicago.
Bedbugs, mostly eliminated in the U.S. 60 years ago with the now-banned pesticide DDT, are making a comeback, with companies including Time Warner Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. reporting sightings of the insects at some offices or stores. Exterminators have logged “a dramatic increase in bedbug calls in recent years” and the U.S. is on the threshold of a pandemic, according to a survey by the National Pest Management Association and the University of Kentucky.
The survey of almost 1,000 pest-control companies found that 95 percent had treated bedbug infestations in the past year, compared with less than 25 percent in 2000. The pest-management association, based in Fairfax, Virginia, represents about 4,600 companies.
The JAB patent, issued in June 2009, is for a “bug-impervious fabric” with a zipper opening for removal of the mattress and a foam pad at the end of the zipper so the bedbugs can’t escape from that opening. JAB calls its invention the “BugLock.”
“It is likely that the evidence will show that Martha Stewart’s acts of infringement have been made with full knowledge” of the patent, Northbrook, Illinois-based JAB said in the court filing.
Katherine Nash, a spokeswoman for New York-based Martha Stewart Living, said the company is investigating the complaint.
Versions of the Martha Stewart mattress pad sell for as much as $140 for king-sized beds, according to the website of department store chain Macy’s Inc. JAB’s mattress encasement sells for as much as $180, according to the company’s website.
The vermin can cause allergic reactions in people through bites, as well as blister-like skin infections, and, in rare cases, asthma and anaphylactic shock, according to a report last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Abercrombie & Fitch, the teen clothing retailer, said in July it temporarily closed its South Street Seaport store in New York to eliminate bedbugs. Time Warner in August said it treated its offices after bedbugs were found “in a small contained area.”
The case is JAB Distributors LLC v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., 10cv5716, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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