NMEA seeks to protect licensing agreements

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The National Marine Electronics Association announced it will “take whatever action is necessary” to protect the ownership rights to its standards and collect payments for their use.

Every year the NMEA and its volunteer members spend significant time, effort and money to create data exchange standards that benefit the entire marine industry.

Many users comply with the NMEA licensing agreement requiring that use of the standards be purchased, but some do not.

"The NMEA is a member-supported industry organization that supports the marine electronics industry by providing technical training and the development of various standards," NMEA chairman and acting executive director Johnny Lindstrom said in a statement. "The standards developed and released are the sole property of our members.”

Lindstrom said the group has been “too lax” in enforcing its rights under various copyright and intellectual property rights laws.

“By doing so, our members have missed benefiting from the revenue that should be realized from the use of these technologies,” Lindstrom said. “We are embarking on an effort to aggressively enforce these rights and collect for the use of our technologies by numerous individuals and businesses around the world.”

For example, cellphone network infrastructure timing is in many cases using the UTC Time sentences from the NMEA 0183 standard for synchronization.

“I have a major cell carrier air card that has NMEA 0183 functions in it,”Lindstrom said. “I find no record of this carrier ever purchasing the rights to use this standard.”

That is one example, but there are numerous cases in which “NMEA 2000 compatible”or some variation of the description is used, Lindstrom said.

“There is no such thing as NMEA 2000 compatible—the product is either certified or it is not, as stated in the NMEA licensing agreement,”Lindstrom said.

"By allowing this abuse of our standards, we are cheating those that play by the rules and by doing so support the maintenance of existing standards and the development of future ones,”he said. “In the past, the only way NMEA has known about any of these violations is by members contacting us. I ask all of our members to be more diligent and to alert the NMEA national office to any abuses of our rights so that we may pursue enforcement of these rights by whatever means available."

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