A patent-infringement suit has been filed against Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. and BRP U.S. Inc. alleging that the makers of the jet propulsion personal watercraft (PWC), Sea-Doo, have committed substantial acts of infringement, according to Hagens Berman.
The complaint, filed in the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Florida states that the companies have marketed, promoted, offered for sale, sold and distributed Sea-Doo personal watercraft that infringe on the intellectual property of its competitor Arctic Cat.
A long-standing safety concern in the PWC industry is the inability to steer a PWC once the throttle is released, as is common in emergency situations, particularly for inexperienced riders. According to the complaint, Arctic Cat was responsible for originally developing a novel and effective off-throttle thrust mechanism to make PWC safer. The technology provides riders with temporary “steerable thrust” when the rider turns in off-throttle situations to help prevent fatalities and injuries from collisions. Arctic Cat representatives demonstrated the technology to the Coast Guard, representatives of BRP and others in the PWC industry in 1999 and 2000.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Arctic Cat patents for its novel and valuable off-throttle steering technology, entitled “Controlled Thrust Steering System for Watercraft."
According to the complaint, BRP originally attempted to provide off-throttle steering with an alternative technology called “Off-Power Assisted Steering” (OPAS) which relied on mechanical rudders in low and off-power situations. Ultimately, in 2009, BRP began transitioning its line of Sea-Doo PWC to “Off-Throttle Assisted Steering” (OTAS) technology that according to the complaint, infringes the patents asserted by Arctic Cat.
The suit states, “BRP determined that Arctic Cat’s OTAS technology provided enhanced rider safety and other benefits that were unavailable with BRP’s [Off-Power Assisted Steering] OPAS technology. On further information and belief, BRP’s adoption of OTAS technology has helped reduce the number of avoidable injuries and deaths from operation of Sea-Doo PWCs.”
Florida U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom today issued a final judgment of $46 million against defendants, Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. (TSE: BBD.B) and BRP U.S. Inc., trebling initial damages of $15.5 million.
A Florida jury unanimously sided with Arctic Cat, finding that the defendants willfully infringed all claims in question on two Arctic Cat patents, awarding a $15.5 verdict to Hagens Berman's client.