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Sea Ray denied venue change in patent lawsuit

A Virginia court denied Sea Ray Boats’ request to move a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Cobalt Boats to Tennessee.

A Virginia court denied Sea Ray Boats’ request to move a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Cobalt Boats to Tennessee, in part because of developments in technology.

U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. said in his denial of Sea Ray’s motion requesting a venue change that although the accused party’s location has been the preferred forum for proceedings, that argument is moot because it’s no longer expensive and time-consuming to transport evidence in infringement suits.

“Weighing in plaintiff’s favor are its choice of forum, intent to call two non-party Virginia witnesses, the willingness of the remaining non-party witnesses to travel to the Eastern District of Virginia, and the interests of justice in fostering the speedy and inexpensive resolution of civil litigation,” Morgan wrote in his decision on Thursday.

Cobalt plans to call two Virginia boat dealers who say they have lost sales because of the alleged infringement.

Cobalt filed suit against Sea Ray Boats in January, 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, said Sea Ray’s “reckless” infringement of the patent has caused Cobalt to lose sales.

The original complaint cited Sea Ray dealerships in Virginia that sold Sea Ray Sundecks 220, 240, 270 and 290, which come equipped with the retractable swim step.

Cobalt also asked that a jury determine “adequate” compensation for Sea Ray’s infringement, as well as coverage of attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses connected with the lawsuit. Cobalt is also seeking a permanent injunction to prohibit future sales of boats with the swim step feature.

Sea Ray parent company, Brunswick Corp., said in court documents filed in March that there was no “actual or legal basis” for the infringement lawsuit that Cobalt Boats LLC filed in late January, adding that the “defendants deny all allegations of patent infringement.”

The company denied “that Cobalt’s development of the swim step was a significant improvement in the design of boat swim platforms.”

The company also filed a motion to transfer the case from Virginia to eastern Tennessee, saying that “most, if not all, of the documents concerning the marketing, sales, design, operation and manufacturing of the accused products are located in or accessible from the boat group’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn.”

“Brunswick denies that this district is the most convenient forum for Cobalt’s action,” Sea Ray attorney David Morris said in court documents.

Cobalt is based in Neodesha, Kan.

A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 16 at the Eastern District of Virginia Court in Norfolk.

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