Patent office ruling clears way for Cobalt suit against Sea Ray

Cobalt is claiming a preliminary victory in its patent dispute with Sea Ray over the company’s submersible swim step.

Cobalt said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office upheld the validity of several claims of its Swim Step patent (U.S. Patent No. 8,375,880), which Cobalt began offering in 2011.

The boat builder filed suit against Brunswick Corp. and Sea Ray in U.S. District Court in January 2015, alleging that Brunswick had begun promoting and selling boats with a “submersible swim step” that infringed Cobalt’s Swim Step patent.

In response, Brunswick petitioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent Office to invalidate all of the claims of the patent. The PTAB issued its final written decision last month, finding that Brunswick had failed to establish that several of the claims were un-patentable.

That decision, Cobalt said, will allow the company to continue with the lawsuit against Brunswick.

“The Swim Step is a very popular Cobalt feature that reflects the innovation, quality and craftsmanship incorporated into all of the boats we sell,” said Cobalt Boats CEO Paxson St. Clair. “We are proud of our ingenuity and believe our intellectual property rights should be respected.”

Now that the PTAB has ruled in its favor, “Cobalt looks forward to enforcing its patent rights,” said St. Clair.

A spokesperson for Brunswick said the company remains confident.

“As you know, Brunswick acknowledges and honors the intellectual property rights of others,” Daniel Kubera, Brunswick’s director of media relations and corporate communications, told Boating Industry. “Further, we are confident that our design in question does not infringe upon that of Cobalt’s, and we are considering our options in this matter.  As the litigation is pending, we will refrain from further comment at this time.”

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