Larry Durkos is an Indiana resident who shook up the bedding industry with a patent on a mattress stapling machine. In 2012, Larry successfully sued Legget & Platt, a major bedding manufacturer, for patent infringement. This is Larry’s story.
In 1994, Larry and his wife took a tour of a bedding factory in Cincinnati, Ohio. As they walked around the bedding factory, Larry noticed that employees were manually stapling metal box springs and coil to wood bases.
According to Larry, when he sees a manual process that can be automatized by a machine, he begins to see solutions in his mind. Believing that box spring assembly could be automated, Larry came up with a sophisticated solution while working in his barn.
Larry’s invention included a camera and trainable software to automatically detect the location and orientation of a wood base and cause a stapler to maneuver down that mattress and punch staples into targeted spots.
Between 1997 and 2008 Larry and his partners filed several patent applications on Larry’s invention and each patent application issued into a patent. With patents in hand, Larry began showing his invention at conferences, including the 2002 International Sleep Products Association trade show in Denver, Colorado.
At some point during 2004, Larry was shown a video of a Legget & Platt automated box spring staple machine. Larry immediately recognized the machine as a copy of his own, and recalled Leggett & Platt employees viewing his invention at the 2002 International Sleep Products Association trade show.
As a small business owner, Larry did not have the estimated 1.5 million dollars that a patent infringement lawsuit typically costs. Larry, however, was able to find a law firm that would take on his case on commission. Commission is an alternative fee arrangement where the law firm takes a percentage of a potential verdict as payment for their representation.
In 2012, after a 2 1/2 year court battle, the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California found that Legget & Platt infringed on the Durkos patents and awarded Larry and his partners $5 million in damages.
Moreover, with 5 years left in the patent’s lifetime, Larry and his partners would be entitled to a reasonable royalty going forward for each mattress Legget & Platt made using the Durkos patents. Legal expert Don Knebel estimated that the size of the royalty could potentially dwarf the size of $5 million verdict.