Hell’s Bay reaches settlement in hull-splashing dispute

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Hell’s Bay Boatworks has reached an out-of-court settlement with Beavertail Skiffs in regard to the anti-splashing lawsuit it filed last fall against the Minnesota boatbuilder.

Though the exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Hell’s Bay’s president Chris Peterson said he was pleased with the results of the outcome, which he says included Hell’s Bay receiving monetary compensation and that the current Beavertail designs would be discontinued and the molds destroyed.

“While no liability was found or admitted in the settlement we feel that the results of the settlement should show the marine industry that marine intellectual property rights can be protected,” Peterson said in a statement.

Beavertail president Mark Fisher says his company did not splash the hulls or infringe on patents or copyrights.

“What Hell’s Bay has made it sound like in their press release is that they’re completely happy with the outcome because they got monetary gain out of it, when the truth of the matter is [the agreement] says, ‘No party to this agreement may declare that they won or prevailed in this lawsuit, or declare that liability was admitted by or found against any of the parties,’ ” Fisher told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

Fisher went on to say that Hell’s Bay paid his company to stop building the boats.

“For us it was a good time because we had built over 400 hulls out of that mold already and we needed to replace our mold, so basically they got hornswaggled by a bunch of farmers up here in Minnesota to pay for all of our new molds,” he said. “That’s the truth of the lawsuit.”

Peterson could not be reached this morning for additional comment.

Hell’s Bay Holdings, Inc. filed the complaint against Fisher Beavertail Manufacturing in November alleging Fisher Beavertail had splashed Hell’s Bay’s Waterman models.

Though Fisher Beavertail Manufacturing is an Avon, Minn.-based corporation, the lawsuit alleged Beavertail built, distributed, marketed and sold the copied skiffs in Florida injurious to the Hell’s Bay designed and manufactured boats headquartered in Titusville, Fla.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. Hell’s Bay had asked for a jury trial before a settlement was reached.

Hell’s Bay brought five counts against Beavertail that included design patent infringement, trade dress infringement, unfair and deceptive trade practices and violations of Florida’s anti-dilution statute.

A decade ago Hell’s Bay was formed to create a new style of shallow water fishing skiff that incorporated many new design ideas that now give Hell’s Bay a distinctive look. That look has now become the trade dress for a Hell’s Bay skiff.

“One key portion of our lawsuit was the trade dress infringement,” Peterson said. “Registered or not, trade dress is a protectable right. It’s the unique, distinctive design and look of a product. Our boat designs are covered by design patents and our distinctive trade dress.

“We feel that other manufacturers have copied our designs and we will be evaluating those infringements as we decide to go after other builders who we feel copied us,” he added.

Fisher added that Beavertail’s settlement was paid by its insurance company and nothing came out of the company’s pocket.

“We’re in stronger and better shape today than we’ve ever been,” he said.


7 comments on “Hell’s Bay reaches settlement in hull-splashing dispute

  1. Island Boy

    First-A big congratulations to Hells Bay, well done!
    Second-What a statement by Fisher-huh?
    Splashing is outright theft, the laws are in place to protect those that go about the art/craft of boat building in an honorable way. It also clearly identify’s those that don’t…… Buyer beware!

  2. Beavertail Rocks

    Buyer beware? Beavertail outclasses and out performs the HB all day long. Fit and finish is unbelivable comapred to the HB’s and their service is awesome….try that with a big boat company! And the boat is half the price!
    Long live Beavertail!

  3. Island Boy

    Beavertail Rocks-That may well be, however your point doesn’t excuse Beavertail Boats spashing the HB. The practice of splashing is theft, no excuses can cover that. Not good workmanship, not good customer service and for sure not the lame excuses offered by Fisher.  Face it, a kindergardener can clearly see the that Beavertail spalshed the Hells Bay. Also, the settlement itself speaks volumes! Hey, maybe, just maybe now that Beavertail has sold over 400 boats as they claim, they can pay a professional to design something original, then pay to have it tooled and expense its cost over the next 400. Or, are they going to modify the boat they copied from Hells Bay and claim it’s there original design, again? Remember, actions speak louder than words. Yes, “BUYER BEWARE”….

  4. Rob Edwards

    What brash statements by Fisher. Does the guy have ethics?  Apparently not!  If I was his insurance carrier I’d think twice.

  5. GetSkinny

    Hey Beavertail Rocks — Let me get this….. Beavertail outperforms HB.  How could that be.  First they may be close in performance since it was “splashed” and there are some obvisous ways to see it was a 100% copy.  Secondly, Fit and Finish is better.  Dude, you are way off in fact HB has pioneered some of the technologies that make there boats look and last longer than other boats out there including BT.  Why do you think they cost a few bucks more….you pay for what you get pal.
    Lets face it they did it and its wrong.
    Perhaps they can be creative for once and come up with an unique idea.  Ohh wait they have this Vengence on thier site.  Dratfs 5″, will run Boca Pass, and Nearby Beach Tarpon…..if you beleive that than why does HB have 12+ different models and why does Sterling, Pathfinder, and the others have multiple models to handle different waters and fishing……so basically the way I see it BT is done son.  EAD

  6. Beavertail Owner

    My Beavertail is a year old and I couldn’t be happier with the boat or the company.  Terrific service and responsive management.  I looked at Hell’s Bay and they were very expensive for what turns out to be the same boat.  Beavertail bought the molds when HB was in bankruptcy and out of business.  In their defense Beavertail didn’t know you had to buy the right to use them.  Additonally, they did make substantial improvements (widening the stern by 4″ to support 4 strokes for example).
    If you compare the cost of the exact same options on a HB vs a Beavertail you will see that HB charges 33%  more.  Their attitude seems to be to charge the consumer as much as they can get away with wereas Beavertail is interested in giving the customer the most bang for the buck.  In this economy I expect that Beavertail’s policy will prevail and HB will return to BK within the next 2 or 3 years.
    Speaking for myself, my boat, the snook and the tarpon, we really don’t care about all of the legal BS.  Speaking for my bank account, it thanks me for the $15,000 I saved by buying a Beavertail. 

  7. Bensky

    I have a 2004 HB Professional, my brother-in-law has a BT.
    No comparison in fit and finish.

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