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Pumpkin Kit Seller Seeks to Squash Infringement

Maker of carving tools has sued Restoration Hardware and others it says violate its patents.

October 31, 2002|Abigail Goldman | Times Staff Writer

It's the time of year for witches, goblins and ghosts. But to one Denver company, nothing is more evil than patent infringement.

Pumpkin Ltd., the maker of kits that have elevated the crude process of carving a pumpkin to an art form, has been busy trying to protect its chief product from what company executives say are illegal copycats. Its latest target: Corte Madera, Calif.-based Restoration Hardware Inc., which sells a $39 pumpkin carving kit complete with 15 tools and a canvas tool belt.

The suit is one of at least 50 that the maker of the Pumpkin Masters kits has filed in the last 10 years against retailers and manufacturers. Other big- name defendants have included Williams-Sonoma Inc. and Walt Disney Co., which reached undisclosed settlements with Pumpkin Ltd. A suit lodged against Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. was dropped.

Noting the large number of defendants that have come before it, Restoration Hardware downplayed the lawsuit.

"It sounds like they're just trying to throw butter on the wall and see what sticks," spokesman Dave Glassman said.

For privately held Pumpkin Ltd., the suit is in fact all about its bread and butter.

"We do fiercely protect our intellectual property rights, and we will litigate if we have to," company President Gay Burke said. Burke added that Pumpkin Masters has changed the way America carves its gourds with unique scooping and cutting tools that allow for elaborate design.

In the last decade, Halloween has shifted from a minor dress-up day for children to a full-fledged cultural tradition, with adults joining in the scary fun.

American consumers this year are expected to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations, according to the National Retail Federation. Pumpkins, greet- ing cards and party supplies account for $2.7 billion of the total.

Pumpkin Masters employees have appeared on morning talk shows to promote their kits, and the company holds an annual carving contest, according to its Web site. In the off-season, the company sells watermelon-carving kits.

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Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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