News notes – Florida & the South

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News Notes - Florida & the South

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A giant replica of a Florida Keys spiny lobster rolls up the Overseas Highway March 27 in Islamorada, Fla. Nicknamed Betsy, the larger-than-life facsimile measures 30 feet tall and 40 feet long. After a cosmetic clear-coating process, her 12 legs are to be attached in front of her new home at the Rain Barrel Artists Village in Islamorada.

Hell’s Bay gets settlement in hull-splashing dispute

Titusville, Fla.-based Hell’s Bay Boatworks reached an out-of-court settlement with Beavertail Skiffs in regard to the anti-splashing lawsuit it filed last fall against the Minnesota boatbuilder.

Though the exact terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Hell’s Bay’s president Chris Peterson says he was pleased with the results of the outcome, which he says included Hell’s Bay receiving monetary compensation and that the current Beavertail designs would be discontinued and the molds destroyed.

“While no liability was found or admitted in the settlement, we feel that the results of the settlement should show the marine industry that marine intellectual property rights can be protected,” Peterson said in a statement.

Beavertail president Mark Fisher says his company did not splash the hulls or infringe on patents or copyrights.

“What Hell’s Bay has made it sound like in their press release is that they’re completely happy with the outcome because they got monetary gain out of it, when the truth of the matter is [the agreement] says, ‘No party to this agreement may declare that they won or prevailed in this lawsuit, or declare that liability was admitted by or found against any of the parties,’ “ Fisher says.

Fisher went on to say that Hell’s Bay paid his company to stop building the boats.

“For us it was a good time because we had built over 400 hulls out of that mold already and we needed to replace our mold, so basically they got hornswaggled by a bunch of farmers up here in Minnesota to pay for all of our new molds,” he says. “That’s the truth of the lawsuit.”

Peterson could not be reached this morning for additional comment.

Hell’s Bay Holdings, Inc. filed the complaint against Fisher Beavertail Manufacturing in November, alleging Fisher Beavertail had splashed Hell’s Bay’s Waterman models.

Though Fisher Beavertail Manufacturing is an Avon, Minn.-based corporation, the lawsuit alleged Beavertail built, distributed, marketed and sold the copied skiffs in Florida injurious to the Hell’s Bay designed and manufactured boats headquartered in Titusville.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division. Hell’s Bay had asked for a jury trial before a settlement was reached.

Hell’s Bay brought five counts against Beavertail that included design patent infringement, trade dress infringement, unfair and deceptive trade practices and violations of Florida’s anti-dilution statute.

A decade ago, Hell’s Bay was formed to create a new style of shallow water fishing skiff that incorporated many new design ideas that now give Hell’s Bay a distinctive look. That look has now become the trade dress for a Hell’s Bay skiff.

“One key portion of our lawsuit was the trade dress infringement,” Peterson said in the statement. “Registered or not, trade dress is a protectable right. It’s the unique, distinctive design and look of a product. Our boat designs are covered by design patents and our distinctive trade dress.

“We feel that other manufacturers have copied our designs, and we will be evaluating those infringements as we decide to go after other builders who we feel copied us,” he added.

Fisher added that Beavertail’s settlement was paid by its insurance company and nothing came out of the company’s pocket.

“We’re in stronger and better shape today than we’ve ever been,” he says.

— Beth Rosenberg

Superboat Grand Prix coming to Marathon

The course has been set for the seventh annual Marathon (Fla.) Superboat Grand Prix, scheduled to start at 1 p.m. May 17, as the highlight of a race weekend that begins May 15.

Starting on the gulf side of the Seven Mile Bridge, the race route includes a run on the ocean side, a tight 180-degree turn and runs at speeds in excess of 150 mph.

The course measures about six miles.

Up to 14 different classes of boats are expected to race, including Superboat Unlimited, Superboat Vee Unlimited, Superboat 750 and 850, Turbine, Super Cat, Super Vee, Superboat Vee Limited, Superboat Stock and Manufacturer Production classes 1 through 5.

Dry pits are to be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 15-17. There is no charge for admission to the race village.

Shoreline viewing areas for the races are planned for the bayside entrance below the Old Seven Mile Bridge, with front-row viewing from Chappy’s Steak & Seafood on Knight’s Key from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

For information, visit www.superboat.com.

New Web site for East Coast cruisers

GoCoastalCruising.com is a new Web site about touring the waters of the eastern half of the United States and Canada, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. The site features illustrated cruise stories and boating advice.

The stories range from small harbor towns on inland waterways and canals to megayachting centers. A selection of interactive crossword puzzles test readers’ local knowledge and nautical word wisdom. New boaters can learn basic techniques, while seasoned cruisers will find more complex solutions to boating situations.

Founders Gene and Katie Hamilton are members of Boating Writers International, a professional association of boating writers. They are authors of “Coastal Cruising Under Power,” (2006, International Marine).

This article originally appeared in the Florida and the South Home Waters Section of the June 2009 issue.