Electronics patent battle continues

Garmin assures it’s selling only non-infringing product, but Navico says rival’s new devices lack ITC validation
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In the latest round in a legal tussle between two marine electronics heavyweights, Garmin has reassured its dealers and customers that it has not shipped any product with the technology the International Trade Commission says infringes on Navico patents.

“We are shipping products that have a new design and are not subject to this ruling,” says Garmin vice president of worldwide sales Dan Bartel. “The ITC ruling has no impact on Garmin product already purchased by Garmin customers and dealers, or any products purchased going forward.”

Garmin began shipping the next generation of its DownVü sonar transducer in early February.

The ITC ruled that Garmin’s DownVü scanning sonar products violate Navico’s patents for DownScan imaging technology. The final ruling prohibited Garmin from “importing, selling, advertising and aiding or assisting distributors or retailers” in selling all of its infringing DownVü products, including the echo, echoMAP and GPSMAP products, with their respective transducers.

Garmin wants to set the record straight amid rumors within the marine industry that the company has been violating the commission’s ruling, says Garmin media relations manager Carly Hysell. Garmin issued a press release after the Nov. 18 ruling and followed up with marketing memos, emails and phone calls to dealers, but is “looking for more ways to connect with the industry to reiterate our message,” says Hysell.

Navico stands by its position that Garmin is in violation of the ITC ruling.

“While Garmin states that they have a DownVü solution that no longer violates our DownScan Imaging technology, Garmin’s opinion has not been validated by U.S. Customs or the International Trade Commission, as specified in the ITC ruling,” Navico said in a statement. “Garmin is responsible for presenting any design-around solution to U.S. Customs or the ITC in order to acquire approval for U.S. import.”

Garmin is appealing the ITC determination and has “already taken steps to ensure that we can continue to provide ITC-compliant Garmin DownVü scanning sonar products,” says Bartel.

Garmin has addressed the patent issues in the ruling with its next-generation transducer, which has a different design internally, a new part number and a new exterior color, says senior manager of marine sales and marketing David Dunn. “They are compliant and non-infringing based on the ruling, but the ITC isn’t required to approve them,” he says.

The ITC decision reversed an initial determination that an ITC administrative law judge issued in July. That decision had concluded that Garmin’s DownVü technology does not infringe upon “any patented aspect” of Navico’s DownScan technology.

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.

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