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LeapFrog Sues Fisher-Price Over Talking Books

With the holiday season approaching, the companies are fighting for shares of the lucrative market.

October 08, 2003|From Associated Press

LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., maker of the LeapPad educational toy line, has sued Mattel Inc.'s Fisher-Price Inc., sparking a patent-infringement battle over talking books that are expected to be hot sellers this holiday season.

LeapFrog, based in Emeryville, Calif., filed suit Friday in federal court in Wilmington, Del., claiming Fisher-Price is violating its 1998 patent on interactive learning books for toddlers and preschoolers.

LeapFrog has grown into the third-largest U.S. toy maker behind Mattel and Hasbro Inc. with its LeapPad series, an electronic book-like system that teaches reading skills phonetically.

Fisher-Price launched a competitive product, the PowerTouch Learning System, in August.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to stop Fisher-Price from selling PowerTouch.

LeapFrog also asks for unspecified damages for being "irreparably injured."

Fisher-Price spokeswoman Laurie Oravec said Tuesday that the East Aurora, N.Y.-based company went through "a significant amount of effort" to make sure the product did not violate any relevant patents and even applied for two patents of its own for the "automatic page recognition" and "finger-touch activation" features in its PowerTouch product.

"We do not believe we are infringing the LeapFrog patent," Oravec said.

LeapFrog's 1998 patent is for "an interactive learning device having electronic circuitry for generating an audible sound in response to touch contact with the device," according to the lawsuit.

"LeapFrog values its intellectual property assets and is committed to vigorously defending them," company spokesman Phil O'Shaughnessy said Tuesday, declining to comment fur- ther.

LeapFrog, which went public last year, closed at $44.71, up $1.34, and Mattel rose 16 cents to $19.99, both on the New York Stock Exchange.

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