Customs and Border Protection backs Navico in patent case

Posted on Written by Reagan Haynes

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has ruled in favor of Navico in an ongoing patent dispute between that company and Garmin.

The agency’s 47-page ruling addresses Garmin’s “tilted” DownVü transducer design. CBP ruled Monday that these products are not admissible into the United States.

Garmin will have the opportunity to appeal the decision, but it did not comment further about whether it will do so; the company does say the ruling applies only to Garmin’s combination systems bundled with tilted transducers that it stopped importing last year.

The ruling comes on the heels of an initial determination on May 25 by an International Trade Commission administrative law judge that Garmin violated cease-and-desist orders issued in 2015 regarding the importation and sale of products featuring tilted DownVü scanning sonar technology.

The judge recommended a fine of $37 million. Garmin said it will appeal.

“The customs ruling is in line with the ITC ruling from two weeks ago, so this is old news. What we said regarding the ITV ruling applies to the customs ruling, as well,” Garmin spokeswoman Carly Hysell told Trade Only Today in an email.

“Like the ITC ruling, this only applies to the combination tilted systems that we stopped importing last year. Since then, we introduced ClearVu sonar technology that Navico itself has confirmed does not infringe on the technology being disputed.”

Navico confirmed to Trade Only that it does not believe Garmin products with ClearVü sonar functionality infringe on Navico’s patents, but it also believes the ruling solidified its argument that the company had infringed on its technology with its original and tilted DownVu products.

“CBP issued its own 47-page decision, independent of the ITC judge’s 76-page decision,” Navico CEO Leif Ottosson told Trade Only Today in an email. “Both arrived at the same conclusion: that Garmin’s tilted design products infringe Navico’s patents. In Navico’s view, Garmin may no longer import or sell its GT-series DownVu transducers or head units capable of operating with such transducers.”

That would directly affect Garmin products, except those bundled with a CV-series transducer, Ottosson said, adding that unlike GT-series transducers, CV transducers lack a downward-looking element.

“CBP is tasked with facilitating lawful trade, and this ruling — independent from the ITC — further reinforces our claims that Garmin has been marketing and selling patent-infringing products,” Ottosson said in a statement. “This again sends a clear message to Garmin that they may not import the offending products. The CBP ruling puts the historic $37 million fine assessed by the ITC administrative law judge into further context.”

Garmin maintains that the ruling won’t affect dealers and customers.

“Even if affirmed by the ITC, the ruling has no impact on Garmin’s customers or dealers,” said Andrew Etkind, Garmin’s vice president and general counsel, in a statement issued by Garmin after the ITC ruling. “Additionally, the ruling does not impact in any way Garmin products with ClearVü sonar functionality, which have been on the market since 2016.”

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