Counterfeit Hitches Caught

Success in a recent patent infringement lawsuit means smoother trailer riding for horses. Easy Rider, Inc., won a case against Air Ride Hitch and SouthEast Easy Rider after discovering the companies had been selling counterfeit hitches with patents owned by ERI. The violating companies and their owner, Craid Kaplenski of Jackson, S.C., have been banned from manufacturing, advertising, selling, distributing, shipping, servicing, or repairing Easy Rider Air Ride Hitches or similar hitch products. ERI hopes to obtain sales records so they can contact those who purchased the faux brand, ameliorate, and offer the "real thing" at a drastically reduced price.

ERI hitches utilize air springs that absorb weight transfer be-tween vehicles, de-creasing tire bounce, road vibrations, and trailer sway. Patent No. 5,836,603 applies to ERI's receiver/bumper pull, gooseneck, and fifth wheel hitch models. Trailer manufacturers Sundowner and Exiss recently tested and approved ERI's hitches as valid accessories. It was reported that performance of the knockoff brand was inferior. The unauthorized hitches are distinguishable from ERI's hitch as they have a battleship gray finish rather than "e-coated" with a black gloss finish.

"The judgment protects and affirms our patent," said Steve Cates, ERI's national marketing and sales director. "It provides a permanent injunction against Kaplenski's companies to manufacture, sell, or distribute any of our hitches or any similar hitch products, and provides us with a means to seek monetary damages for our losses," he added.

Cates said that Air Ride Hitch filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Dec. 15, 2000, but Kaplenski has already opened a new hitch company, Advanced Air Hitch.

Easy Rider was presenting witness testimony and formal documentation seeking damages at press time. For more information or if you suspect you've purchased the knockoff hitch, visit, or call toll free 877/543-7433.

About the Author

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief

Stephanie L. Church, Editor-in-Chief, received a B.A. in Journalism and Equestrian Studies from Averett College in Danville, Virginia. A Pony Club and 4-H graduate, her background is in eventing, and she is schooling her recently retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Happy, toward a career in that discipline. She also enjoys traveling, photography, cycling, and cooking in her free time.

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