ARTICLE: The Amendments to the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998: A New Tool for the Boating Industry Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2007 Jefferson Law Book Company
Journal of Maritime Law & Commerce

ARTICLE: The Amendments to the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act of 1998: A New Tool for the Boating Industry

April, 2007

38 J. Mar. L. & Com. 177


Bradley J. Olson, Esq. *




Congress enacted the first industrial design protection statute in the United States, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Act ("VHDPA" or "the Act"), as part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. 1 In the intervening eight years since enactment, the recreational boating industry has generally overlooked this industry-specific form of intellectual property protection. 2 The Act has been underutilized, no doubt in part due to the difficulty in proving infringement based on the way in which "hull" was originally defined. 3 A Senate bill, the Vessel Hull Design Protection Amendments of 2005 ("the amended Act"), which had been pending before the 109<th> Congress before "dying" at adjournment, would have redefined "hull" and "deck" as separate areas subject to protection under the Act, so that infringers will no longer be able to enjoy the safe-harbor of knocking-off an economically valuable hull design, but avoiding liability for infringement by merely rearranging "deck" features to eliminate "substantial similarity" between the original design and the "knock-off." 4 The economically significant domestic boat manufacturing industry 5 has long been plagued by low-cost boat makers who think nothing of taking a successful competing boat hull design and using it as a "plug" to make a direct-cast mold for their own unauthorized manufacturing use. This form of knock-off technique is more commonly known in the boat building trade under the sobriquet of "splashing" a hull. The amended Act should be re-introduced in the ...
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