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An Oklahoma trailer hitch manufacturer has filed a patent infringement suit against two South Carolina-based trailer hitch makers controlled by the same person.

Easy Rider Inc. of Wewoka, Okla., has filed suits against Air Ride Hitch Inc. and SouthEast Easy Rider Inc., two Beech Island, S.C.-based firms controlled by Craig Kaplenski.

Easy Rider claims Kaplenski’s companies copied and sold versions of Easy Rider’s patented shock-absorbing trailer hitches. In November, a U.S. District Court Judge in Oklahoma City issued an injunction ordering Kaplenski’s firms to stop violating Easy Rider’s patent, according to Randy Witzke, Easy Rider’s attorney.

Kaplenski, a former Easy Rider dealer, also violated his dealer agreement, according to the ruling by an arbitrator in Oklahoma, Witzke said. The arbitrator, during December, ordered Kaplenski’s firms to pay $100,000 in damages to Easy Rider.

As a result of the litigation, Kaplenski placed Air Ride Hitch and SouthEast Easy Rider in bankruptcy and created a new firm, Advanced Air Hitch Inc., to continue selling hitches in violation of Easy Rider’s patent, said Witzke, an Oklahoma City-based attorney.

Easy Rider hopes to get the federal court injunction expanded to include all Kaplenski-controlled companies and Easy Rider also hopes to get recognized as a creditor for the proceedings involving Kaplenski’s two other firms now under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Columbia, S.C., Witzke added.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Friday (Jan. 12) in bankruptcy court in South Carolina, Witzke added.

In response to an inquiry from RVBusiness.com, Kaplenski stated, “Advanced Air Hitch Inc. manufactures Advanced Air Hitch Systems products based on its own proprietary technology.”