Judge Awards New Damages, Attorneys' Fees to Stinson Leonard Street Client Cobalt Boats
ST. LOUIS (Nov. 3, 2017)—A federal judge in Virginia enhanced damages and awarded attorneys' fees to Stinson Leonard Street client Cobalt Boats in a patent infringement case this week against Brunswick Corp., a competing boat manufacturer. The judge awarded Cobalt compensatory damages of $5.4 million, up from the original award of $2.7 million.
In doing so, U.S. District Court Judge Henry C. Morgan, Jr. concluded that Brunswick not only willfully infringed on Cobalt's patent, but also dragged the suit out unnecessarily through a "pattern of misconduct."
Cobalt sued Sea Ray Boats and its parent company Brunswick in January 2015 alleging that Brunswick infringed on Cobalt's "retractable swim step", a partially submerged platform that allows boat passengers to easily enter and exit the water. In June of this year a jury concluded that Brunswick's infringement was willful and returned a $2.7 million verdict.
In granting Cobalt's post-trial requests Oct. 31, 2017, Judge Morgan concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support Brunswick’s claims at trial that it didn't know about Cobalt's patented technology. Further, the judge singled out what he described as Brunswick's "bad behavior", noting that the company made false statements in court filings, made earlier attempts to design a step to avoid the patent, was not truthful about being in contact with former employees and insisted on calling deceptive witnesses at trial.
“These examples are part of a pattern of misconduct by Brunswick in this case,” Judge Morgan wrote. “The misconduct by Brunswick in the handling of these matters was not proper or timely and did adversely affect Cobalt's discovery.” The court also enjoined Brunswick from selling any infringing swim steps in the future.
Since its introduction in 2010, the patented Swim Step has been a popular feature with Cobalt's dealers and customers. The way it flips down below the surface of the water provides an easy way for people to get in and out of the water and also provides a bench-like seat on the back of the boat that gives boaters more room for to enjoy the water. After it was introduced, Cobalt saw a steady increase in sales and demand for the feature, and it is now the most popular feature on Cobalt's boats. During trial, Cobalt proved that the Swim Step feature helped it sell boats—and helped Brunswick sell its infringing boats as well.
"We are very pleased that the court enhanced Cobalt's damage award in light of Brunswick's willful infringement and related conduct," said Lead Trial Counsel Scott Eidson of Stinson. "This is particularly rewarding for Cobalt, who invested heavily in their patent protection and diligently protected their patent rights. The court's ruling is an important reminder about the serious implications of not respecting the intellectual property rights of others."