Legislation designed to strengthen and clarify the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998 was approved by Congress and awaits the President’s signature to become law.
The Senate on Tuesday passed H.R. 6531, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act Amendments of 2008. The amendments, passed in July by the House of Representatives, will provide boatbuilders with increased protection from intellectual property violations made through hull splashing.
“Certainly it’s better than what we had before,” Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats, told Soundings Trade Only this morning.
Hull splashing is the process of replicating an original hull by making copies using a mold made from the hull of another builder’s boat. The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998 was supposed to protect boatbuilders from this. However, because of the way a hull was defined in the original legislation and subsequent court opinions, enforcement has been curtailed because of the difficulty in proving infringement.
Deal knows about hull splashing first-hand. Fort Pierce, Fla.-based Maverick filed a lawsuit in March 2002 in U.S. District Court against two boatbuilders for infringement of an original hull design. Deal lost in District Court and the subsequent appeal, the courts ruling there was no infringement because the other builders changed the deck design.
“The judge bought the argument that the hull and deck were one structure,” said Deal. “Changes to the deck constituted changes to the hull.”
Deal says the original Vessel Hull Design Protection Act had no affect on his case. However, he says the amendments help clarify the existing law.
“More specific language clearly delineates that hulls are hulls and decks are decks, with each individually deserving protection,” he said.