- H-E-B is filing a lawsuit in federal court in Waco, Texas against Home Depot, Southern Sales and Marketing Group, nICE coolers and China’s Ningbo Kuer Plastic Technology for patent infringement on its private label Kodi cooler.
- H-E-B is demanding the retailers involved recall the coolers and deconstruct all materials used to make them including plates, molds and advertising materials. Home Depot told the San Antonio Express-News that it was reviewing the lawsuit that it received Monday and had no comment.
- The lawsuit says the retailer filed for a patent on its Kodi cooler technology in 2012. The chain's senior buyer of grills and coolers started exploring new ideas for coolers after a negative experience using his brother-in-law’s cooler on a boat trip. H-E-B then approached two inventors from Kentucky that created an “improved cooler technology," according to the suit.
The lawsuit centers on the pressure-release button on the outside of the Kodi coolers, which makes the lid easier to open. H-E-B told the Express-News it would prefer not to go to court but that it must protect its brands.
The retailer spends about $300,000 a year marketing the cooler, which featured prominently in the company's Super Bowl ad this year.
“At H-E-B, we invest heavily in innovation across our company to provide our customers the best quality products and customer experience available,” spokeswoman Dya Campos told Express-News. “As a result, we cannot be idle spectators while others use without permission the intellectual property H-E-B and its partners have worked so hard to develop.
Although portable coolers have been around for years, innovation, the growing popularity of outdoor recreation and other factors are driving 9% annual sales growth in the market. Competition among brand names in the cooler space is fierce with long-time household brands Igloo and Coleman going up against wildly popular Yeti. Going into the warmer months of spring and summer in Texas, H-E-B wants to be the preferred cooler vendor for its shoppers.
In recent years, grocers have had to deal with lawsuits over infringement of private label products including Target, whose Good & Gather line faces a lawsuit from a similarly named brand. In 2017, Kroger filed a suit against Lidl saying it's Preferred Selection brand was too similar to Kroger's Private Selection brand. Kroger eventually dropped the lawsuit.