Federal agency rules Garmin violated Navico patents

Ruling prohibits Garmin from importing, selling, advertising and aiding or assisting distributors or retailers in selling DownVu products.

Norwegian marine electronics manufacturer Navico said today that the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Swiss competitor Garmin’s DownVu scanning sonar products violate Navico’s U.S. patents for DownScan Imaging technology.

The ruling prohibits Garmin from importing, selling, advertising and aiding or assisting distributors or retailers in selling all of its infringing DownVu products, including the echo, echoMAP and GPSMAP products, with their respective transducers, Navico said in a statement.

“It has been a matter that we have pursued now for a year,” Navico CEO Leif Ottosson told Trade Only Today.

Specifically, the ITC issued an order barring Garmin and its distributors from selling or aiding others in the sale of the infringing products and has issued an exclusion order directing U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reject their importation, according to Navico.

Navico said Garmin’s DownVu Products are manufactured and imported from Taiwan.

“While all ITC orders have a 60-day period before taking full effect, effective immediately resellers of Garmin DownVu products risk willfully infringing Navico’s patents if they continue to sell Garmin DownVu products, and they could be subject to an infringement suit,” Navico said.

“Therefore, Navico advises against any distributor, dealer or retailer continuing marketing or selling these products and recommends that resellers seek independent legal advice if they have any questions in this matter.”

Garmin said it plans to appeal the ruling.

“Garmin intentionally designed its products to prevent infringement of Navico’s patents. We disagree with the ITC and plan to appeal the determination,” Garmin vice president and general counsel Andrew Etkind said in a statement.

“However, as with the Johnson Outdoors ITC determination we announced in November, we have already taken steps to ensure that we can continue to provide Garmin DownVu scanning sonar products. Garmin has already designed, implemented and manufactured an alternative design that addresses the issue in this ITC ruling. The ruling has no impact on Garmin products already purchased by our customers and dealers.”

Ottosson told Trade Only Today that his company does not plan to pursue legal action against individual retailers during the 60-day period.

“We hope they have codes of conduct and standards that stop them from acting in ways that are not commensurate with U.S. law,” he said.

The ITC ruling reverses an initial determination that an administrative law judge issued in July, previously announced by Garmin Ltd.

This is also the second adverse ruling in two weeks by the ITC that finds that Garmin is violating sonar patents.

Garmin could file an appeal with a U.S. federal court in an attempt to challenge the factual conclusions or show that the ITC incorrectly applied the law; however, in the meantime, the importation and sale of Garmin products featuring DownVu technology are subject to the ITC ruling, effective immediately.

“We are extremely pleased that the ITC has ruled in our favor,” Ottosson said in the Navico statement. “Our innovative DownScan Imaging provides real benefits to fishermen, and we have invested considerable time, effort and resources to develop and bring it to market. Our patents are designed to protect that investment.”


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