A competitor says Sleep Number is unfairly controlling the use of the term "number bed," a claim the Minneapolis-based company said it "strongly disputes."
The lawsuit is not the first battle between Dires LLC, which does business as Personal Comfort bed, and Sleep Number.
A trademark-infringement case over the term that dates back to 2012 is still in the appeals process.
In the Nov. 5 federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Florida-based Dires claims Sleep Number is suppressing competition by telling Google and other search engines that "number bed" is registered to the Minnesota company. As a result, the search engines have prevented competitors such as Dires from using the term.
Dires sells its adjustable air mattresses directly to consumers primarily through its website, Amazon or by phone, and said in the complaint it is dependent on online searches. In the complaint, the company said 90% of its sales since 2015 have come from online searches through Google or Bing.
The trademark-infringement case filed by Dires also centered on the term "number bed," as well as other statements made by Sleep Number.
In the 2012 case, the court in 2018 found in favor of Sleep Number on a number of issues, but ruled the company does not own a trademark to "number bed."
While Sleep Number asked for $17 million in damages, the jury awarded it less than $200,000, said Chris Madel of Minneapolis-based Madel PA, attorney for Dires.
The case is now pending in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The legal disputes also go beyond the "number bed" term.
Sleep Number in 2015 filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission's office against Dires and others for patent infringement regarding technology and design issues.
And in March 2018, Sleep Number filed a patent-infringement complaint against American National Manufacturing, which manufactures products for Dires LLC.
Dires, in the current trademark suit, claims that despite the 2018 ruling that said Sleep Number does not own the phrase "number bed," it was still notifying the search engines it owned the phrase.
Dires also noted in its complaint that a Google executive, Daniel Alegre, has served since 2013 on Sleep Number's board of directors. The complaint alleges that after Alegre joined the board, "Google accepted Sleep Number's representations that Sleep Number owned the trademark in the phrase 'number bed.' As a result of Sleep Number's actions, the phrase 'number bed' was considered 'registered' with Google."
The complaint also claims Sleep Number employees have written "false, misleading, and defamatory" reviews of Personal Comfort beds in various online sites.
The suit alleges that the actions by Sleep Number not only reduce competition for adjustable air mattress beds but also that consumers have to pay higher prices for Sleep Number products as a result.
"We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards in all of our business practices and strongly dispute these baseless claims, which are very similar, and in many cases identical, to allegations that were raised by the same parties in a lawsuit in 2016 and were promptly dismissed by the court," a Sleep Number spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.
Dires is seeking damages from Sleep Number, but the amount of damages are expected to be determined in court as the case proceeds.
"We are looking forward to proving each and everyone of our allegations in court," said Madel, Dires' attorney.