Multinational tech company Garmin Ltd. will likely be the target of a $37 million fine levied by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The fines result from Garmin’s business activities in marketing marine sonar imaging devices in violation of a cease-and-desist order resulting from a Section 337 patent infringement investigation.
Under section 337, the USITC determines whether there is unfair competition in the importation of products into, or their subsequent sale in, the United States. Section 337 declares the infringement of a U.S. patent, copyright, registered trademark, or mask work to be an unlawful practice in import trade. Section 337 also declares unlawful other unfair methods of competition and unfair acts in the importation and subsequent sale of products in the United States, the threat or effect of which is to destroy or substantially injure a domestic industry, prevent the establishment of such an industry, or restrain or monopolize trade and commerce in the United States.
That order came about a year and a half after the ITC instituted the Section 337 against Garmin on July 9th, 2014, after allegations of patent infringement made by Norway-based marine equipment developer Navico, Inc. The Section 337 investigation led the ITC to conclude that Garmin’s DownVü sonar products infringed upon two Navico patents:
• U.S. Patent No. 8305840, titled Downscan Imaging Sonar. It claims a sonar assembly for imaging an underwater environment beneath a watercraft traveling on a surface of a body of water which results in better quality sonar images for water columns, including fish targets.
• U.S. Patent No. 8605550, same title as the ‘840 patent. It claims a sonar transducer assembly with a plurality of rectangular transducer elements producing sonar beams both parallel and perpendicular to the transducer’s longitudinal length which provides improved downscan imaging of underwater environments.
Navico filed a complaint with the ITC on August 30th, 2016, alleging that Garmin was still marketing sonar devices in violation of the December 2015 cease-and-desist order. The formal enforcement proceeding leading up to the recent $37 million fine was instituted on October 11th, 2016. A final determination in the case is expected to be issued this August. At least one news report indicates that Garmin has been working on creating an alternative design for its sonar products which will allow it to operate without violating the ITC’s ruling.