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For the record: Congress closes loophole in anti-hull splashing law

Legislation designed to strengthen and clarify the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998 was approved by Congress and awaits the President’s signature to become law.

The Senate on Sept. 30 passed H.R. 6531, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act Amendments of 2008.

The amendments, passed in July by the House of Representatives, will provide boatbuilders with increased protection from intellectual property violations made through hull splashing, which is the process of replicating an original hull by making copies, using a mold made from the hull of another builder’s boat.

The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998 was supposed to protect boatbuilders from this. However, because of the way a hull was defined in the original legislation and subsequent court opinions, enforcement has been curtailed because of the difficulty in proving infringement.

“More specific language clearly delineates that hulls are hulls and decks are decks, with each individually deserving protection,” Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats, told Soundings Trade Only. Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Maverick filed a lawsuit in March 2002 in U.S. District Court against two boatbuilders for infringement of an original hull design. Deal lost in district court and on a subsequent appeal, with the courts ruling there was no infringement because the other builders changed the deck design.

Hinckley, Mercury, Viking and Cabo all cutting jobs
The Hinckley Co. will lay off 49 workers at its Trenton, Maine, production facility.
The eliminated jobs represent about 9 percent of the boatbuilder’s work force, which is currently at 580 — half in manufacturing, according to Ed Roberts, vice president of marketing and product development at Hinckley.

“It’s a sign of the bigger picture,” Roberts told Trade Only. “The slowdown is larger than we expected.”

Elsewhere, Mercury Marine reduced its hourly work force in Fond du Lac, Wis., by approximately 160 positions. Mercury employs about 2,500 salaried and hourly workers in Fond du Lac, according to the company. In July, it cut 62 jobs and temporarily shut down the Fond du Lac production plant for three weeks. In April, Mercury cut 50 salaried positions from its plants in Fond du Lac; Tulsa and Stillwater, Okla.; and St. Cloud, Fla.

Viking Yachts eliminated about 70 positions and placed another 75 employees on furlough for two to six weeks. Communications director Pete Frederiksen says about 20 administrative posts were eliminated, along with about 50 production jobs. The layoffs have been ongoing at the New Gretna, N.J., boatbuilder, which still employs nearly 1,400 people.

Cabo Yachts has laid off 45 more employees to cope with a slumping marine industry, shrinking the builder’s work force from nearly 350 to 220 positions since May, Brunswick spokesman Dan Kubera told the Victorville (Calif.) Daily Press.

Famed yacht designer Olin Stephens dies at 100
Olin J. Stephens II, a designer who created more than 2,200 cruising and racing yachts, died Sept. 13 in Hanover, N.H. He was 100.

Stephens designed yachts as diverse as Dorade, a 52-foot yawl that prompted a ticker-tape parade in New York after winning the 1931 Trans-Atlantic Race; and Ranger, a 135-foot J Class yacht he designed with Starling Burgess for the 1937 America’s Cup races.

He was also instrumental in designing five other successful America’s Cup defenders: the 12 Meters Columbia in 1958; Constellation, 1964; Intrepid, 1967; Courageous, 1974; and Freedom, 1980.
During World War II, he was involved in designing amphibious landing craft and minesweepers for the armed forces.

Stephens turned to the broader concerns of yachting safety only after his retirement in 1978 from Sparkman & Stephens, the New York naval architecture firm he founded in 1929 with the yacht broker Drake Sparkman.

Stephens was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum in Bristol, R.I., in 1993.

Florida show returns; Iowa show cancelled
The Fort Myers (Fla.) Boat Show will take place Nov. 13-16 at the Harborside Convention Center and along the waterfront of the Fort Myers City Yacht Basin.

The 36th annual show will feature 800 boats from more than 150 manufacturers, along with accessories exhibits and seminars.

Sponsored and organized by the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association, the Fort Myers Boat Show is held in the spring and fall each year.

For information, call (239) 656-7083, or visit

Meanwhile, after four years of competing with other shows, coupled with a slow economy, the National Marine Manufacturers Association canceled the Des Moines Sportshow in Iowa.

“Des Moines is a market that has way too many shows — five or six within a two-month period,” Ben Wold, NMMA executive vice president in charge of boat shows, told Trade Only. “We gave it a good shot.”

The 66th annual show was scheduled for Feb. 21-24, 2009, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines.

Study touts role of shows in selling boats and gear
At a time when dealers and manufacturers may be tempted to cut costs by not exhibiting at boat shows, a new study indicates shows remain a crucial ingredient in selling boats and equipment.

A year-long study released by the NMMA and the Recreational Marine Research Center at Michigan State University surveyed more than 20,000 attendees across all of NMMA’s 2008 consumer boat shows. The study revealed that 55 percent of boat buyers attended a show within six months prior to their purchase.

And 65 percent of survey respondents said attending a show increased their desire to buy a boat.

Additional study findings include: 86 percent said attending a show increased their desire to go boating; 50 percent went to the show with no intention of buying a boat, but became interested once at the show; 5 percent bought a boat at the show; and 49 percent intend to follow up with a dealer they spoke to at the show.

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue.



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