German manufacturer Marker DE has stopped selling the beloved Kingpin ski binding in response to a finding from a patent infringement lawsuit brought forth by G3 Genuine Guide Gear Inc. According to legal documents, Marker stipulated in court in May, agreeing that it had infringed on one of three patent claims that G3 asserted against them. Subsequent court dates will determine whether Marker infringed on two other infringement claims, as well as the damages G3 will be awarded.
In the fall of 2015, Marker, who elected not to comment on the matter, introduced the Kingpin binding to great fanfare. Finally, a binding that was light enough for touring, but had the heel retention for more aggressive skiing. In POWDER’s annual Buyer’s Guide that year, Matt Hansen wrote, “In 2006, Marker changed the game with the Duke. Now, the same can be said about the Kingpin, which will probably make its much heavier cousin obsolete.”
But not everybody was happy. On December 15, 2015, G3 filed the civil action lawsuit against Marker for three claims within a patent they received in June 2014, called "Heel Unit for Alpine Touring Binding" (referred to in court documents as ‘728 Patent). It was the second civil action G3 had filed to protect this patent. In March 2015, G3 also filed a lawsuit against Fritschi.
“We are very active with patents and intellectual property,” said G3 owner Oliver Steffen. “This one came up and it’s a really nice patent. We really like it—it has a good basic concept and we want to assert it. So we did.”
Fritschi and G3 settled their case later that year, but the matter with Marker has been ongoing.
“It's like any court case, we're asserting something, they don't agree,” says Steffen. “We keep going back and forth. You go to the court and they ultimately make a decision if people can't settle. You end up in front of someone who can. You look at the facts and the court makes a decision.”
According to court documents, one of the inventions in question is a latching mechanism on the Kingpin that locks the brake arms in place while touring and deploys the brakes upon a ski release. Marker’s Kingpin bindings, G3 alleged, infringed on three claims within its ‘728 Patent. G3 says Marker’s infringement was willful and deliberate.
“On information and belief, Defendants have had actual knowledge of the '728 Patent and of Defendants' infringement of that patent. G3 contacted Marker DE prior to the filing of this Complaint. This contact constituted notice to Defendants of the '728 Patent and that the Marker Kingpin bindings infringe at least one of the claims of that patent. Despite the fact that Defendants have had actual knowledge of Plaintiff's patent rights, Defendants have acted deliberately and in disregard of the '728 Patent, and with objective recklessness, by infringing the '728 Patent, through Defendants' continued manufacture, use, sale, or offer for sale in the United States of the Marker Kingpin bindings.”
Since May, Marker has not sold the Kingpin and it does not appear on MarkerUSA.com. This is an action they have taken voluntarily, not by court order. Specific damages ordered by the court are forthcoming.