Garmin wins in Navico patent case

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US appeals court finds Navico sonar patents were not infringed.

The long-running patent dispute in the US between marine electronics manufacturers Navico and Garmin took a new twist this week when the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a December 2015 finding by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that Garmin had infringed Navico's sonar patents with its DownVü products.

The original ruling by the ITC, which applied only to US markets, ordered Garmin to cease all importation and distribution of its products made in Taiwan. In a later ruling, the ITC also recommended that Garmin be fined US$37 million for disregarding the cease-and-desist orders.

The latest judgement from the Court of Appeals reverses the ITC’s original orders against Garmin as well as the US$37 million fine imposed for selling its products.

“The Federal Circuit’s sweeping decision, finding that Navico’s downscan technology was an obvious modification of old sonar systems, puts an end to Navico’s unfounded and vicious patent war against Garmin,” said Andrew Etkind, Garmin’s vice president and general counsel. “Not only does the Federal Circuit’s decision eliminate the ongoing disputes at the ITC, it renders Navico’s other lawsuits in Oklahoma and Texas without merit.”

Navico originally filed a petition against Garmin in June 2014 alleging that its DownVü sonar imaging products infringed three Navico patents. An initial determination found there was no infringement but in its final determination, the ITC found in Navico's favour. On appeal, the Federal Circuit decided instead that the claims of infringement of Navico's patents were “not supported by substantial evidence”.

“This ruling confirms our strong belief that Navico’s patent claims were not supported by the facts,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s chief executive officer. “Despite Navico’s flood of lawsuits, and harassment of Garmin’s dealers, distributors, and customers, the industry stood by us during this difficult and unnecessary fight and for that, we are extremely grateful.

“We look forward to a great 2017 filled with exciting new Garmin products.”

Following the decision, Navico issued a brief statement in response.

“Obviously, we are disappointed in the appellate court’s decision following four rulings in Navico’s favour on this matter,” said Leif Ottosson, CEO, Navico. “As a result, we are analysing this particular determination, and we are currently reviewing our options for moving forward.”

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