Loomis sued by former firm

Woodland fishing rod maker says founder’s new company is violating trademark law

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

 

Just think of it as the legal battle of Loomis the company versus Loomis the man.

G. Loomis Inc., the Woodland-based maker of fishing rods, is suing Gary Loomis, who launched the company in 1982 and is renowned in the fishing industry, over what the company alleges are violations of trademark law and breach of contract.

The lawsuit, filed July 2 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, names as defendants Loomis, North Fork Composites LLC, GLTPRO LLC, Andrey Velikanov and 10 unnamed defendants. It alleges they “conspired” to violate the company’s trademark rights, hurting its ability to do business.

Gary Loomis and his codefendants deny the allegations by his former company. On Aug. 4, they filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the case. G. Loomis Inc. “has its facts wrong” and the company’s lawsuit is a “business tactic to keep a competitor from bringing superior products to the industry,” according to documents filed by their attorneys, Jon Stride of Portland and Jon Bial of Woodland.

At issue is the company’s ownership of certain trademarks, including the G. Loomis, GL and fish design trademarks used in connection with its fishing products and services. The company accuses Loomis and others of manufacturing and selling fishing rods and related accessories with the “confusingly similar” trademarks “Gary Loomis” and “GLT,” and of using an “infringing” fish design.

Attorneys for Loomis say he owns the rights to his signature and that his new company — Woodland-based North Fork Composites — makes rod blanks, the poles that are made into fishing rods. It does not make the actual rods. In a declaration filed with the court, Loomis said that in picking a logo and brand for his new company, he “stayed far away from the G. Loomis brand.”

The legal dispute between Loomis the company and Loomis the man dates to October 2008. That’s when the company filed its first lawsuit against Loomis. That lawsuit ended in a settlement, in which Gary Loomis agreed to not violate the company’s trademarks and in which the company agreed to not challenge Loomis’ publicity rights. In 2009, the company filed another lawsuit, alleging Loomis broke the settlement agreement. Loomis filed a counterclaim against the company. In that dispute, both parties agreed to dismiss their respective complaints.

Now the company alleges Loomis is “for the third time” prompting it to file a lawsuit “to enforce its rights.”

Loomis’ attorneys argue the company’s three lawsuits only prove that it is litigious.

Gary Loomis is a principal owner of North Fork Composites, which incorporated in March 2009. GLTPRO, which formed in January 2003, is a Ridgefield company. Its managers are Lena and Andrey Velikanov. In court filings, the couple argue that G. Loomis Inc.’s allegations are baseless. Lena Velikanov said she and her husband have been distributing products and services in Russia, including fishing rods and rod blanks, since 1993 under a variety of trade names, such as GLTPRO. She said rod blanks they bought from Loomis’ company, North Fork Composites, “come with no brand or label” and that North Fork “has no right over what the final rod will look like.”

Gary Loomis, who founded the premier G. Loomis line of fishing rods, is considered to have revolutionized the fishing industry with innovations in graphite rod production.

In 1995, he sold the company for an undisclosed sum to Shimano Inc. but he stayed involved with the company for years.

Now, the company he built up is seeking a jury trial and demanding unspecified damages and attorneys fees.

In recent phone interviews, Gary Loomis and Jim Lebson, executive director of G. Loomis Inc., both addressed the difficulty of the situation.

Lebson said the lawsuit isn’t personal and that he considers Loomis a friend. “It’s a little awkward, but there’s business and then there’s personal relationships,” Lebson said. “At the end of the day, we have some intellectual property we think is important to protect.”

Loomis said the lawsuit is unnecessary. He questioned whether it equals friendship. “Wouldn’t a friend sit down and talk before they sue?” he asked.