The patent infringement suit launched by Oakley against Safilo America and its Smith Sport Optics subsidiary is similar to those still pending in US courts against Nike and against the Bausch & Lomb brands acquired by Luxottica last June - Ray-Ban, Reva, Killer Loop and Arnette - in relation to the XYZ Optics technology that Oakley has applied to its own successful Jackets, Wires, X Metal and Frogskins models.

Safilo has no immediate comments on the newest suit filed by Oakley in the US District Court for the Central District of California. The suit charges that the XYZ Optics patents are infringed by certain sunglass models sold under the Smith brand name, such the Slider SL2, Slider Bazooka, Slider 01, Toaster and Buzzsaw models. Oakley also alleges that Smith's Slingshot, Boomerang and Moab H/P models, among others, infringe on the design patents that protect Oakley' distinctive M-Frame model.

Separately, Oakley announces the seizure of more than 200,000 pairs of finished and semi-finished couterfeit Oakley sunglasses at 3 Chinese factories and two South African distributors, including manufacturing equipment, parts and supplies. It's the biggest seizure of counterfeit Oakley products in both countries, bringing up to 1.7 million units the total of bogus product recovered around the world sofar this year. More than 210 individuals have been arrested in these actions.

Meanwhile, Oakley takes over the distribution in Australia of its own products from Sundaze, a local distributor that has done an excellent job in the last 13 years. With wholesale revenues of more than $15 million (e15m) in the last year, Australia is Oakley's second-largest market, thanks in part to the high per capita consumption of sunglasses in that country. The brand is distributed through about 1,400 specialty retail accounts in Australia.

The acquisition will allow Oakley to take advantage of major marketing opportunities offered by the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, and of the reverse seasonality of this large Southern Hemisphere market. Oakley has taken control of its own distribution in several other countries in Europe and Central America plus Japan, Canada, South Africa and Mexico. The latest acquisition raised from 75 to more than 85 percent the share of non-US sales handled by directly owned operations.