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NRF responds to FTC investigation of patent trolls

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The National Retail Federation welcomed today’s announcement that the Federal Trade Commission plans to investigate patent trolls.

“Patent trolls are a drain on the economy,” NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. “It’s time for Washington to put an end to this abuse of our nation’s laws. Seeing this issue receive top-level attention from the FTC is a significant development.”

FTC chair Edith Ramirez announced the investigation, which must be approved by the full commission, during a speech before the American Antitrust Institute and the Computer and Communications Industry Association in Washington. The probe would look into a variety of issues, and results would be available for use by Congress, the courts and federal agencies. 

The move comes just more than two weeks after the White House announced a series of executive actions and legislative recommendations intended to crack down on frivolous lawsuits filed or threatened by patent trolls. At least half a dozen members of Congress have proposed legislation on the issue.

NRF, the Food Marketing Institute and the National Restaurant Association today sent a letter to Ramirez urging the commission to thoroughly examine the issue.

“Valuable resources are being extracted from end users that could be used to invest in business, create jobs and contribute to the growth of the economy, and instead are going to fight or settle frivolous infringement claims,” the letter said.

Patent trolls are firms that buy old, obscure patents from inventors, and then make millions by threatening to sue companies that use the technology involved unless they pay a licensing fee. Retailers are among the most frequent targets thanks to the industry’s increasing use of cutting-edge innovations, especially in online and mobile retailing.

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PRO Group conference met with enthusiasm

BY HBSDealer Staff

Distributors and manufacturers convened at this year’s Group Merchandising Conference, held June 17-19 at the Embassy Suites Atlanta/Centennial Olympic Park.

With attendance hovering around 150, PRO Group and Val-Test distributors met with manufacturers during 962 private 30-minute appointments aimed at strengthening relationships and previewing new products.

According to Steve Synnott, CEO and owner of PRO Group, one-third of manufacturers at the conference were first-time attendees, a promising sign for sales and two-step distribution.

"This conference is more informal than many of the conferences we attend, and it affords us more direct interaction that is vendor-oriented and item-oriented," said Michael Brady, director of purchasing for Long-Lewis Hardware Co. "We also meet with vendors we may have never even heard of before."

To cap off the event, PRO Group informally celebrated its 60th anniversary at the conference, though the official celebration will take place in August with a nationwide circular event.

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Fortune Brands acquires WoodCrafters Home Products

BY HBSDealer Staff

Fortune Brands Home & Security has made a strategic move to strengthen its position as the self-titled industry leader in cabinetry through its acquisition of WoodCrafters Home Products, completed on Thursday, June 20.

WoodCrafters, a privately owned manufacturer of bathroom vanities and bathroom sink tops with annual sales of $230 million, will become part of Fortune’s Kitchen & Bath Cabinetry segment as a business unit of MasterBrand Cabinets. WoodCrafters will retain its current management structure, staff, operations and locations.

"We’ve been a leader in kitchen and bath cabinets for years," said Fortune CEO Chris Klein. "WoodCrafter’s strength in vanities and integrated sink basin tops immediately strengthens our offerings for the bathroom, with more products, more control over our supply chain and expanded low-cost North American manufacturing capacity. The cabinet market is in the early stages of recovery. Now is the perfect time to add to our leadership position."

Fortune completed the acquisition for $300 million, the projected equivalent of 7.5 times the annual EBITDA. According to the company, the purchase multiple could shrink to 6 times EBITDA over the next couple of years.

The news comes amid further changes at Fortune, which appointed Terry Horan as the new president of its security and storage business Wednesday. Horan will be replacing incumbent retiree John Heppner and will assume full responsibility on July 8. Horan was most recently president and CEO of Robert Bosch Tool. According to Klein, Horan has a proven track record of creating growth in both brand and product development.

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