WASHINGTON – The National Marine Manufacturers Association has lauded the U.S. Senate – specifically Senators John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) – for passing important amendments to increase protection of boat builder’s designs under the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act, NMMA said in a release yesterday.
The bill, S. 1785, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Amendments of 2005, was passed unanimously by the Senate on Nov. 18, and amends the VHPDA to make clear that the Act’s protections extend to both registered hull and deck designs to prevent against a copycatting technique called “hull splashing.”
“The recreational boat industry thanks the Senate for their responsiveness to the concerns of NMMA members by passing common-sense legislation that will have a profound impact on the ability of manufacturers to protect their significant design investments,” said Monita Fontaine, NMMA vice president for Government Relations. “This is a critical step to offer a greater level of protection against copyright infringement to boat manufacturers who register and protect their designs. NMMA thanks the sponsor and cosponsors of S. 1785 for taking on this important task for the boating industry, and for ensuring the bill’s quick passage.”
“Hull splashing” is the process where an infringer makes a mold from a vessel hull of another manufacturer and then uses the mold to manufacture copies. The protections available to boat designers under federal patent, general copyright, or trademark laws have proven to be inadequate, too time-consuming, or too expensive to acquire. Boat designers instead sought a simple federal registration process to protect their designs.
Congress responded by passing the VHDPA in 1998, but a lack of clarity in the Act’s language created confusion as to when a boat design was protected, NMMA said.
Responding to the need to correct this ambiguity, Senators Cornyn, Leahy, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.) introduced S. 1785 on Sept. 28, 2005 to protect hull designs and deck designs separately. Under the Senate-passed amendment, a company could not “splash” a competitor’s protected hull, only make changes to the deck, and then escape violating copyright laws.
“It is important to our member companies that the amount of time and money they invest developing their innovative designs be protected,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “I am pleased the Senate saw the importance of strengthening this law in order to maintain a fair market and I urge the House to follow suit.”
S. 1785 now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives where it has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. NMMA will work to secure passage of the bill in the House and to have it sent to the president for his signature.
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