Bennett Marine to proceed with patent infringement suit

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Trim tab manufacturer Bennett Marine is moving forward with a $10 million patent infringement lawsuit against Lenco Marine following a ruling that it said supports Bennett’s claim, the company reported in a recent statement.

United States District Judge Kenneth Marra issued a decision on May 30, rejecting Lenco’s assertion that Bennett’s patent for the Auto Tab Retractor did not apply to electric trim tabs, which Lenco manufactures, Bennett reported. Called a Markman Order, the ruling clears the way for the lawsuit to move to trial by mid-May 2008, Bennett stated.

This ruling followed an earlier settlement in 2003 between Lenco and Bennett in which Lenco paid Bennett damages, acknowledging that the patent for their Auto Tab Retractor was valid and enforceable, according to Bennett. As part of the settlement, Lenco was to advise boat builders not to violate the patent by wiring the product to the ignition, Bennett reported. Bennett said it filed a second patent violation suit in 2004 after learning that the product was continuing to be sold to builders and installed in a manner that violated the patent.

The Auto Tab Retractor is a device that retracts the trim tabs when the ignition is turned to the “off” position. Bennett said it developed the product and was granted a patent in 1992.

“We invented the ATR to provide a competitive advantage for ourselves and our builders,” said Blake Bennett, president of Bennett Marine, Inc. “It is our obligation to protect the builders who purchased this product so that they could maintain their competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

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