May 28, 2004
Leatherman ordered to pay $13 million over Made in USA label
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Portland-based Leatherman Tool Group Inc. was ordered to pay consumers more than $13 million after a California judge decided the company's multiuse tools had too many foreign components to be considered made in the United States.
State Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney ruled that the company violated California law by placing a "Made in USA" label on almost two dozen products that were partially made outside of the country.
She said the label would likely "deceive members of the public into a false belief that the tools are wholly American made."
Leatherman spokesman Mark Baker said Thursday that an appeal is likely. He acknowledged that some of the company's parts and processes are handled by suppliers in Canada, Mexico and Western Europe, but says enough work is done in this country to justify the "Made in USA" label.
"We do such a high percentage of the work here, either ourselves or with U.S.-based suppliers, it is our contention that the typical person would look at what we do and conclude that this is a made in USA product."
Attorney Henry Rossbacher, who represented the plaintiffs in the case, said more than 100,000 California consumers could ultimately split the award.
Besides the cash payments, the judge ordered the company to stop labeling products as "Made in USA" or including the claim in advertising.
The company was also ordered to distribute information on its Web site and to media outlets in California for 12 weeks stating that its products include some parts using foreign manufacturing, labor and processing.
Leatherman already stopped labeling its products as "Made in USA" two years ago, as the case was making its way through court, Baker said.
Leatherman, founded in 1983, has about 340 employees in the Portland area.
I've always heard that Tim Leatherman pushed the enveloped of the "hencho en USA," label, I guess now after loosing the lawsuit, that pretty much settles it. Just another nail in the old boy's coffin.
I'd let that guy use my shovel, but he's diggin a helluva hole with his own so I'll hang on to mine I think.