Photo Courtesy of Empire Level
The acquisition expands Milwaukee's measurement-tool product line.

In a deal that unites two of the oldest toolmakers in the upper Midwest, Milwaukee Tool Corp. says it has acquired Empire Level, based in Mukwonago, Wis. Known for its measuring squares, plumbs and levels, 95-year-old Empire Level has long claimed to have invented the modern level.

Milwaukee Tool, Milwaukee, did not disclose the terms of the deal, announced on June 2. Empire Level is expected to operate as a separate division, says spokesperson Kharli Tyler. "There are no immediate plans to make changes to management and staff." Milwaukee Tool also does not plan to rebrand the other company's products. "The individual Milwaukee and Empire brands and product lines will remain separate as they cater to unique user groups," adds Tyler.

Empire Level made news at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas on May 8, when it sued eight China-based tool manufacturers for selling what it asserts are counterfeit versions of its products.

During the event, a federal judge in Nevada granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale of the Chinese tools and, in a May 20 ruling, extended the injunction indefinitely. "Empire Level is determined to end this counterfeiting," Peter Jansson, the Jansson Munger McKinley & Shape attorney for Empire Level, told ENR. "It will be interesting to see if formal answers are filed by the defendants or if all or most will default."

Jansson says Empire Level still plans to pursue the lawsuit. Milwaukee Tool declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.