A long-awaited March 19 ruling handed down by the Oregon Federal District Court in Johnson Outdoors' three-year-long patent infringement battle against Glenwa (Cobra Kayaks) found in favor of Glenwa on all counts.
The Oregon court upheld a Jan. 14, 2003, ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., invalidating two patents at issue, '063 Patent and the '912B1 Patent. In addition, the court found that Glenwa had not infringed on any part of the '177 Patent and as a result, granted Glenwa's motion for summary judgment and denied Johnson's motion.
"We are disappointed by this latest ruling, and continue to believe strongly in the validity of all our patents protecting the unique Malibu II design," Mark Leopold, Watercraft Group vice president for Johnson Outdoors, was quoted as saying in an official company release.
And while Glenwa's legal team told us that the ruling was a clear victory for Glenwa, Johnson remains adamant that the company's legal options remain open and that nothing, as yet, has been decided finally.
"While no decisions have yet been made, there are a number of options in the Glenwa case, including appeals and other challenges, which are being evaluated," a Johnson company representative told SNEWSÂ®. "Net, net -- it may be premature to consider this ruling the final step in the process involving Glenwa."
Patent infringement cases against Hobie and Confluence remain stayed pending final resolution of this case.
SNEWSÂ® View: Sigh. Let's sum this up if we can. Two of the patents awarded to Johnson protecting the Malibu II have been declared by the courts, without any gray area, to be invalid. And while Johnson asserts in the company's official release that "a recent court ruling maintains the validity of the '177 Patent," in fact, the court made no such ruling since it didn't have to. Glenwa decided to abandon its effort to invalidate that patent and claim instead that it didn't infringe on the patent at all. And, the judge agreed -- no infringement. The folks on Glenwa's legal team are raising their arms in a victory salute. Our legal team reviewed the court ruling and doesn't see much wiggle room for Johnson on this one. However, it wouldn't surprise us if the company still had a few cards it hadn't played. We should know soon enough. What might happen next? Since the '177 Patent hasn't been ruled invalid, we would suspect that Johnson would press forward with its patent infringement cases against both Hobie and Confluence, but it will do so with decidedly fewer bullets in the barrel. And while we do fully believe in every company's right to defend its intellectual property, we wonder, is the sit-on-top market really large enough to sustain keeping legal teams on the ready? Wouldn't money be better spent on marketing the products AND marketing the sport? Just wondering, mind you.