Lawsuits preceded OtterBox’s LifeProof buy

FORT COLLINS – The OtterBox acquisition of San Diego-based competitor LifeProof, announced Wednesday, came one day after a patent infringement lawsuit between the two firms was dismissed.

Officials for mobile case manufacturer OtterBox said late Wednesday that the acquisition was not part of a settlement agreement. San Diego-based LifeProof did not respond to requests for comment.

Earlier in the day, OtterBox CEO Brian Thomas announced the acquisition at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Neither he nor founder Curt Richardson mentioned the two lawsuits filed against LifeProof in 2011 and 2012. The CTIA is a trade group representing the wireless communications industry.

“This is a big strategic move to really get into the waterproof space with a great brand… that consumers recognize and know,” Thomas said from the trade show stage.

In court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Colorado, OtterBox claimed that LifeProof violated several of its patents on waterproof mobile cases. LifeProof, established in 2009, makes cases for iPhones, iPads and iPods.

“While designing the LifeProof iPhone 4 Case in 2009, LifeProof’s founder, Gary Rayner, was aware of OtterBox’s products and of the fact that OtterBox had patents on protective, waterproof cases,” a 2012 complaint by OtterBox states. “In fact, Mr. Rayner used the competing OtterBox case as a reference when designing the LifeProof iPhone 4 case.”

The lawsuit also states that LifeProof infringed on OtterBox patents through LifeProof’s Fre iPhone5 case and Gen 4 iPod case “in reckless disregard for OtterBox’s intellectual property.”

OtterBox asked for a court injunction to stop LifeProof from making the cases that infringed on OtterBox patents. It sought lost profits, “reasonable” royalty, damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

But attorneys for the companies agreed Tuesday to dismiss the lawsuits, which District Judge William J. Martinez had consolidated into one case in February. Tuesday’s court filing does not mention the reason for the dismissal.

Jim Parke, OtterBox senior attorney, explained that LifeProof incorporated “features” on its cases that OtterBox had patented.

The acquisition was not made as part of any settlement, Parke said.

“Now that we’ve acquired LifeProof, it doesn’t make sense to continue that legal action,” he said.

A spokeswoman said OtterBox was not disclosing financial terms of the deal.

OtterBox does not have plans to relocate employees as part of the acquisition, she said. Gary Rayner founded the company and serves as chief executive. LifeProof employs 250 people.

OtterBox, a privately held company, reported $573.9 million in 2012 revenue vs. $170 million in 2010. OtterBox employs about 650 people.

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