HANS wins judgment against rival manufacturer

NASCAR's and IndyCar's preferred maker of head-and-neck-support devices deserves $302,000 from a competitor that infringed on its patent, in violation of a settlement, a federal judge ruled. Robert Hubbard, a retired professor of biomechanical engineering at Michigan State, began developing the head-and-neck-support, or HANS, device in the 1980s to protect against basilar skull fractures that race-car drivers can sustain if their heads whip forward in a crash. Hubbard's company, HANS Performance Products, sued Kevin Heath Enterprises (KHE) in 2010 for infringing on its patent, and the companies reached a settlement the next year that required KHE to discontinue making its neck support device, the DefNder G70, or any device "no more than colorably different" from the DefNder G70. Kevin Heath, as president of KHE, signed the agreement in his official capacity, but during negotiations, he registered a new company, NecksGen Inc., which began marketing a similar neck brace in 2012. The NecksGen device is sold worldwide, except in Georgia, as Heath hoped to avoid another lawsuit by HANS there. Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge William Duffey Jr. in Atlanta found Health and NecksGen in contempt of the consent order Monday because "the NecksGen device is no more than colorably different than the DefNder G70 device." Courthouse News

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