AKRON-Goodyear has successfully defended the intellectual property rights of its Aquatred tire against Continental General Tire Inc.'s Hydro 2000 line. Goodyear forced Conti General Tire (CGT) to agree to discontinue its Hydro 2000 line before the close of the year because the tire infringed on two utility and one design Aquatred patents.
Goodyear in July 1993 filed the patent infringement suit against the subsidiary of Continental AG in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina. After the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in April 1996 found that Conti General's Hydro tire violated three patents of Goodyear's award-winning wet-traction tire, the German-owned firm agreed to drop its defense and settle out of court.
In the consent decree, Conti General acknowledged the Hydro line infringed on three patents of the Aquatred, which features a wide groove running down the tread's surface to channel away water. Conti General agreed to drop its counterclaims against Goodyear, destroy all Hydro 2000 tire molds and pay an undisclosed amount in damages.
CGT also agreed not to contest the validity of Goodyear's Aquatred patents in subsequent litigation, Goodyear said.
A Conti General spokesman declined to elaborate on the deal. ``The Hydro 2000 is a tire which makes up a very small percentage of our overall passenger tire unit sales volume,'' he said.
In 1993, Goodyear also sued Silverstone Tire & Rubber Co. Sdn. Bhd., and the following year the Malaysian tire maker agreed to cease production of the particular Silverstone tire, dispose of all inventory and pay damages.
Apparently, the demise of the Hydro 2000 will hardly create a ripple in tire dealerships.
Tire Kingdom Inc., the Riviera Beach, Fla.-based multimillion-dollar retailer, didn't sell many of the tires, according to Derrill Deramus, vice president of retail operations. ``We do sell a few of them, but as a total of the General products we sell, it's not really a significant mover for us.''
He said Tire Kingdom, which operates 148 company-owned outlets in Florida and North Carolina, has several other tires ``in that same type of design and construction'' as the Hydro 2000 that ``move well.''
Scott Monteith, vice president of Indy Tire Center Inc. in Indianapolis, had a similar reaction. ``When (CGT) first launched the Hydro, we got on the bandwagon and started selling some of them, and it seemed to take off.
``But the price was a little steep for a General-name product.''
A combination of factors may have contributed to the tire's lackluster sales, he explained, including the fact ``that nobody had a lot of advertising bucks to really push it hard like Goodyear's pushed the Aquatred. As a consequence, (Hydro sales) died down on us.''
He also said the tire ``wore a little too fast on the outside edges, so we backed off it a little bit.''
Indy Tire-a multibrand dealership with seven outlets in the Greater Indianapolis area and an eighth one scheduled to open on Sept. 16-also came up against Montgomery Ward, which Mr. Monteith said ``sold a ton'' of the Hydro 2000 tires at a price of $59.95 for any size-too low a price to compete against, he said.
While some retailers had limited success with the Hydro, according to one executive with a large Southern tire dealership, it fit into a niche market all but dominated by the Aquatred.
``No one was selling much of the Hydro line...,'' he said. ``To be honest with you, I think (CGT) is happy to destroy those molds.''