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ITC finds patent of cat litter products valid, enforceable

BY Allison Cerra

MIRAMAR, Fla. A home appliances manufacturer and its subsidiary announced that the U.S. International Trade Commission has determined that two other companies infringed its patent.

The ITC unanimously determined that cat litter boxes and accessories being imported into the United States by Lucky Litter LLC of Chicago, OurPet’s Co. of Fairport Harbor, Ohio, infringe the LitterMaid patent developed by Salton Inc. and its subsidiary, Applica Home Products.

The infringement findings cover Lucky Litter self-cleaning litter box products sold under the “ScoopFree” brand name, ScoopFree litter cartridges, and OurPet’s Co. self-cleaning litter box products sold under the “SmartScoop” brand name. In addition to finding that the LitterMaid patent was infringed, the ITC found that the patent is valid and enforceable.

The Commission has issued an exclusion order to stop further importation of infringing products into the United States by the two companies. Additionally, the ITC ruling prohibits the unlicensed importation of infringing self-cleaning litter boxes and components, including cartridges that are manufactured abroad by or on behalf of, or imported by or on behalf of the companies. The ITC also has issued cease and desist orders prohibiting the companies from importing, selling, marketing, advertising, distributing, offering for sale, transferring, or soliciting U.S. agents or distributors for any of the covered products.

“We appreciate the ITC recognizing the validity and enforceability of our patent and more importantly for taking the necessary steps to prevent unfair competition,” said Terry Polistina, Salton’s president and CEO. “We will be working closely with U.S. Customs to ensure the effective enforcement of the ITC orders and will take whatever steps necessary to prevent continued infringement. Resellers should note that continued sale, marketing and distribution of the Lucky Litter and Our Pet’s products may be subject to enhanced damages, which could be substantial. We are considering all available options with respect to willful infringers.”

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Target reports March sales

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS Target reported that its net retail sales for the five weeks ended April 4 decreased from the year-ago period.

The retail giant reported that net earnings were $5, 5434 million, down 2.3%, from $5,676 million for the five weeks ended April 5, 2008. On this same basis, March comparable-store sales declined 6.3%.

“March sales were modestly better than our planned range, and reflected the adverse impact of the move of pre-Easter holiday shopping days from March last year into April this year.” said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO, Target Corporation. “Our guests continue to be cautious, but we have begun to see encouraging signs in the operating results of both of our business segments. In light of the Easter shift and recent trends, we expect our April reported comparable-store sales results to be essentially flat to last year.”

Target Corporation’s retail segment includes large general merchandise and food discount stores and Target.com, a fully integrated on-line business. In addition, the company operates a credit card segment that offers branded proprietary and Visa credit card products. The company currently operates 1,699 Target stores in 49 states.

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Fred’s reports decline in sales

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Thursday reported a 1% decline in total sales for the five weeks ended April 4, generating $175.4 million in sales.

The decline reflects the closing of 74 underperforming stores and 22 underperforming pharmacies last year, the discounter reported. Excluding stores closed during 2008, total sales from ongoing stores increased 4% in March versus the same month last year. Comparable-store sales for the month rose 1.9%, versus an increase of 1.2% in the same period last year.

“Our progress in building both traffic and average ticket continued during March, as indicated by comparable-store sales growth at the high end of our plan,” stated Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO. “This performance, which also reflected higher pharmacy department prescription counts is gratifying, considering the tough retail environment we face. Those same challenges, however, continue to drive growing consumer interest in discount retailers, and Fred’s remains well positioned to deliver great value to its customers.”

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