Ruling green-lights Cobalt lawsuit against Brunswick

The Commerce Department agency upheld the validity of the swim step, a feature Cobalt began to offer on some of its models in 2011.
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Cobalt Boats began to offer a swim step on some of its models in 2011. The builder said the swim step is easily flipped from a stored position within the aft swim platform of a boat to a deployed position below the water surface.

Cobalt Boats began to offer a swim step on some of its models in 2011. The builder said the swim step is easily flipped from a stored position within the aft swim platform of a boat to a deployed position below the water surface.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upheld the validity of Cobalt Boats’ swim-step patent, allowing the company to move forward with its lawsuit alleging that Brunswick Corp. and Sea Ray infringed on Cobalt’s patent.

The Commerce Department agency upheld the validity of the swim step, a feature Cobalt began to offer on some of its models in 2011.

In 2015, Cobalt sued Brunswick in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying Brunswick had begun to promote and sell Sundeck 220, 240, 270 and 290 models with a “submersible swim step” that Cobalt said infringed on its patent.

In response, Brunswick petitioned the Patent Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board, seeking to invalidate the claims of the patent, according to Cobalt.

After an 18-month review the board issued a final written decision on Sept. 28 that found Brunswick “failed to establish” that several of the claims were unpatentable.

The decision enables Cobalt to move forward with its lawsuit against Brunswick.

“The swim step is a very popular Cobalt feature that reflects the innovation, quality and craftsmanship incorporated into all of the boats we sell,” Cobalt Boats CEO Paxson St. Clair said in a statement. "We are proud of our ingenuity and believe our intellectual property rights should be respected."

Now that the board has ruled in its favor, "Cobalt looks forward to enforcing its patent rights," St. Clair said.

Trade Only Today asked Brunswick to comment on the ruling. “As you know, Brunswick acknowledges and honors the intellectual property rights of others,” Brunswick spokesman Daniel Kubera told Trade Only Today. “Further, we are confident that our design in question does not infringe upon that of Cobalt’s and we are considering our options in this matter. As the litigation is pending, we will refrain from further comment at this time.”

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