Hitting Its Stride & Fight Over Inflatables

Hitting Its Stride


How about those guys at . Since the year kicked off the stock is up 13.4 percent. I have to admit, I always hate looking at companies like this. Why? Because I love a couple of their brands and a hate some others. So I never feel like I have a handle on where they're going. Here's why I love them. Saucony. They bought them for $170 million in 2005 and with that comes a loyalty that you'll only find in the running world. I've been wearing Saucony running shoes since 1990 (I recently got a pair of Nike+iPod compatible shoes, but I'd still say I'm a Saucony man.) Then they have these other really interesting brands. I know these Sperry Top-Siders look and feel great and I love the niche they have in Robeez baby shoes. What kills me is the Tommy Hilfiger shoe line and Keds -- no, not even Misha Barton can save them now! For a nice round up on Stride Rite and its retailing side of the business as well, check out this morning's piece in the Boston Globe

Inflatable Fight
Over the past couple years, inflatable people have taken the place of extras -- especially during sports movies. The main reason is because crowds are obviously important, but not essential to the plot and inflatables are extremely economical -- costing as little as 1/10th the cost of a real person. But there's a pretty big fight for a piece of the inflatable business taking place. Mark Woolpert, president of Crowd In A Box, has filed a lawsuit against Joe Biggins and his Inflatable Crowd Company. The lawsuit alleges that Biggins infringes on two "Inflatable Humanoid Form" patents held by Crowd In A Box. The lawsuit calls for Biggins to stop renting his blowups to movie companies and seeks all profits from Biggins company, which since he outfitted the crowd for Seabiscuit in 2003 has grown into a brisk business. Sources tell CNBC that the Biggins inflatables will be in at least 8 productions commissioned by the likes of Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures and Dreamworks in 2007.

"Joe Biggins' company has done business with 40 or 50 movies based on an idea that you came up with," Woolpert told us. "And we've been relegated to a couple films (including Nacho Libre), but mostly commercials. Woolpert said that he entered into negotiations with Biggins at one point last year, offering to give up the patents and run his company for a piece of the action. Biggins counter, Woolpert said, was a "penny a head" licensing fee.

Biggins has until Feb. 7 to answer the lawsuit. His lawyer Dennis Martin told us that "the patent isn't even a patent on the item itself, it's a method patent." Martin said he believes that there's an "excellent chance" that a judge deems that the patent cannot be defended in this case.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com