Cobalt vs. Sea Ray in patent lawsuit

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Cobalt Boats LLC is suing Sea Ray Boats, alleging that the company infringed on Cobalt’s patent for a submersible swim step. The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, contends that Sea Ray’s “reckless” infringement of the patent has caused Cobalt to lose sales.

Daniel Kubera, a spokesman for Sea Ray parent company Brunswick Corp., says it is company policy not to comment on pending litigation. A summons was issued on Jan. 28 that says Sea Ray had 21 days after receiving the summons to return an answer or motion. As of Feb. 10, no response had appeared in public court records.

The complaint says Sea Ray’s manufacture, use and sale of boats with a submersible swim step infringes the U.S. patent [No. 8,375,880] Cobalt received in 2013.

An attorney for Cobalt Boats filed a document sent to Sea Ray Boats on Oct. 1, asking the company to resolve what it believed to be patent infringement of its fold-out step. “Based on our understanding of its construction and operation, we believe this fold-out step feature falls within the scope of the ‘880 patent claims and therefore infringes the patent.” The document says Cobalt “is willing to resolve this issue in an amicable fashion,” provided Sea Ray agrees to refrain from the further manufacture and sale of boats with swim platforms that include a fold-out step and pay a negotiated royalty to Cobalt on those already sold.

The federal court complaint, filed Jan. 23, says Sea Ray did not respond. “As a result of Sea Ray’s willful infringement of the ‘880 patent, Cobalt has lost sales to Sea Ray and has been and continues to be damaged by Sea Ray’s infringing conduct,” the complaint says.

Attorneys representing Cobalt asked in court documents for a trial so a jury can determine “adequate” compensation, as well as coverage of attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses connected with the lawsuit. It is also seeking a permanent injunction to prohibit future sales of boats with the swim step feature.

“We are very proud of our innovative products and intend to protect our patent rights,” Cobalt Boats CEO Paxson St. Clair said in a statement. The swim step feature has been “a huge success for Cobalt” since its introduction to the marketplace, the complaint says. Beginning last year, Sea Ray — “a direct competitor of Cobalt” — began promoting and selling boats with a swim step that “appears to copy Cobalt’s” and infringes on Cobalt’s patent, the complaint says.

The swim step is offered on 220, 240, 270 and 290 Sea Ray Sundecks, according to the complaint.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue.

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