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Paul Leitner-Wise Takes LWRC and Sig Sauer to Court

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Paul Leitner-Wise, principal of Leitner-Wise Manufacturing and the “LW” in the original LWRC, filed a lawsuit yesterday against Sig Sauer and LWRC International in Federal court in Maryland. Anyone with a passing interest in the firearms industry is aware of the animosity between Leitner-Wise and LWRC, but adding Sig to the mix is a surprising twist.

Leitner-Wise asserts his “Self-Cleaning Gas Operating System for a Firearm,” patent against both defendants. He's also making claims against LWRC for unjust enrichment and breach of contract. Interestingly, Leitner-Wise's complaint calls out more than just patent infringement.

We find it deeply troubling that two major firearms manufacturers can predicate the entire success of their piston rifles upon a patent which was assigned without the inventors knowledge and to which they have never paid a penny in royalties,” said Matthew LeFande, the attorney representing Leitner-Wise.

According to patent law expert (and a RECOIL legalese interpreter), Malvern “Griff” Griffin, the patent at issue relates to a self-regulating short-stroke piston operating system for AR-15 type, self-loading rifles. The suit takes aim at LWRC and Sig Sauer products using Leitner-Wise's self-regulating short-stroke piston system. The complaint specifically names over a dozen different rifle and pistol models, including the LWRC IC-A5  rifle and the SIG MCX rifle.

And here's the twist; the complaint points to an alleged conspiracy between LWRC and Sig. According to the complaint, Leitner-Wise was employed with Leitner-Wise Rifle Company, Inc. until October 2006, at which time he assigned his patent interests to that company for a specified royalty on certain products. Then, in April 2008, Leitner-Wise Rifle Company assigned the patent to LWRC International, LLC. Leitner-Wise alleges that the assignment is void, due to an issue with incorrect inventorship identification made by the Leitner-Wise Rifle Company in the assignment papers. Fast forward to 2011, and LWRC sues Sig Sauer for infringement of that same patent.

As explained in the complaint, during that 2011 case, Sig Sauer uncovered the defective patent assignment and informed LWRC International. As a result of that information, asserts Leitner-Wise, both LWRC International and Sig Sauer “conspired to discontinue such litigation amicably as to avoid further disclosure of the fraudulent 2008 assignment and to continue such infringement [of the patent] unimpeded.”

Reached by phone, LWRC spokesman David Golliday declined to comment, as did Sig Sauer spokesman Jordan Hunter, reached by email.

With the filing of Mr. Leitner-Wise's complaint, and assuming the defendants have been served, they will have a few weeks to file an answer with the court.

When it comes to stories involving legal issues, RECOIL is working with attorney Malvern “Griff” Griffin, an expert in intellectual property law. Griff is a partner in the Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP practice and an avid shooter.

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