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Author Topic:   SONAR Wars in Court
jimh posted 08-01-2014 09:25 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, legal proceedings among manufacturers of recreational SONAR devices are growing. The major manufacturers are in an imbroglio of lawsuits with each other over patent infringement. Here is the tally among five manufacturers:

--Flir (Raymarine) is suing Furuno;

--Furuno is suing Navico, Flir, and Garmin;

--Navico (Lowrance, Simrad) is suing Flir and Garmin

--Johnson Outdoors (Humminbird) is suing Garmin

Garmin seems to be the most popular target, getting sued by three of its four competitors. Furuno seems to be the most aggressive, suing three of its four competitors. In contrast, no one is suing Johnson Outdoors, and Garmin is not suing anyone.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about $470-million was spent in 2011 in the USA for electronic fish finders--and that was before the pulse compression revolution! (See Table 3, in linked document, below.)

http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/upload/ FWS-National-Preliminary-Report-2011.pdf

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-07-31/ fishfinders-spark-patent-lawsuits-among-garmin-humminbird-others

Whalrman posted 08-01-2014 09:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whalrman  Send Email to Whalrman     
Sounds like a new reality show is taking form.
Chuck Tribolet posted 08-01-2014 10:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Garmin has the deepest pockets, so it's no surprise they are
the most-sued.

Chuck

jimh posted 08-01-2014 10:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Garmin also has the least experience in SONAR, so anything they implement is likely to have already been implemented previously by a competitor. Garmin are again likely to be adopting technologies for which their competitors have some patents. If Garmin does have the deepest pockets--which is likely--they can probably out-lawyer their competitors.
Hoosier posted 08-01-2014 11:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
The Bloomberg article has little details about what the real technical issues are. It does not mention [pulse compression] aka linear FM, the new darling of the sonar world, an old technology taken from military radar and sonar that now can fit into chartplotters because of the revolution in cheap consumer digital signal processors. Lowrance has also incorporated [pulse compression] into their Broadband Radar 3G and 4G series, it's an easy way to get a lot of equivalent power out without a huge power amp.
jimh posted 08-01-2014 03:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I don't think there could be any patents remaining on pulse compression, since it was first developed in the 1950's or 1960. The patents must have expired. I think the early patents on pulse compression actually implemented it with an analog circuit method, using various filter or delay lines for different frequencies to process the FM signal back into the compressed pulse. The method of accomplishing the transform using digital processing might be more recently patented.

In one of the patent wars, I believe the patent covered the design of a transducer for side scan. The length of the transducer was mentioned in the patent. The method was implemented by a competitor whose transducer had a different length. Apparently the change in length was thought to be enough of a further development to escape infringement. I don't have any details, just a recollection of reading about it.

But, in any case, it sounds typical for a competitive electronic product marketplace for the manufacturers to very aggressively defend their patented inventions against infringement. Now if they'd all just spend a little more on customer technical support.

Peter posted 08-02-2014 09:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
The actions against Garmin must be for their recently introduced DownVu and SideVu sonar features.
Peter posted 08-03-2014 11:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
One of the cases vaguely mentioned in the Business Week article must be Navico v. Garmin filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (Lowrance's "home court"). In the complaint, Navico alleges that Garmin has infringed three U.S. patents:

•8,300,499: “Linear and circular downscan imaging sonar” by Coleman et. al., granted 10/30/2012,

Abstract: A method for providing a combined linear and circular downscan sonar display may include receiving linear downscan sonar data from a linear downscan transducer, receiving conical downscan sonar data from a circular downscan transducer, and combining the linear downscan sonar data and the conical downscan sonar data to produce combined downscan sonar data. A corresponding computer program product and apparatus are also provided.

Link www.google.com/patents/US8300499


•8,305,840: “Downscan imaging sonar” by Maguire, granted 11/6/2012,

Abstract: A downscan imaging sonar utilizes a linear transducer element to provide improved images of the sea floor and other objects in the water column beneath a vessel. A transducer array may include a plurality of transducer elements and each one of the plurality of transducer elements may include a substantially rectangular shape configured to produce a sonar beam having a beamwidth in a direction parallel to longitudinal length of the transducer elements that is significantly less than a beamwidth of the sonar beam in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal length of the transducer elements. The plurality of transducer elements may be positioned such that longitudinal lengths of at least two of the plurality of transducer elements are parallel to each other. The plurality of transducer elements may also include at least a first linear transducer element, a second linear transducer element and a third linear transducer element. The first linear transducer element may be positioned within the housing to project sonar pulses from a first side of the housing in a direction substantially perpendicular to a centerline of the housing. The second linear transducer element may be positioned within the housing to lie in a plane with the first linear transducer element and project sonar pulses from a second side of the housing that is substantially opposite of the first side. The third linear transducer element may be positioned within the housing to project sonar pulses in a direction substantially perpendicular to the plane.

Link: www.google.com/patents/US8305840

• 8,605,550: “Downscan imaging sonar” by Maguire, granted 12/10/2013.

Abstract: A downscan imaging sonar utilizes a linear transducer element to provide improved images of the sea floor and other objects in the water column beneath a vessel. A transducer array may include a plurality of transducer elements and each one of the plurality of transducer elements may include a substantially rectangular shape configured to produce a sonar beam having a beamwidth in a direction parallel to longitudinal length of the transducer elements that is significantly less than a beamwidth of the sonar beam in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal length of the transducer elements. The plurality of transducer elements may be positioned such that longitudinal lengths of at least two of the plurality of transducer elements are parallel to each other. The plurality of transducer elements may also include at least a first linear transducer element, a second linear transducer element and a third linear transducer element.

Link: www.google.com/patents/US8605550


In April 2013, Navico had filed a complaint against Raymarine asserting that Raymarine infringed the '499 and '840 patents. The '550 had not issued at the time. Navico and Raymarine have settled with the result Raymarine taking a license according to the press release.

jimh posted 08-03-2014 09:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Peter--thanks for the informative links. Perhaps the most famous patent dispute was Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray both inventing the telephone and applying for a patent on the same day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Elisha_Gray_and_Alexander_Bell_telephone_controversy

If this had been decided differently, we might have grown up talking to each other on telephones of the Gray System instead of the Bell System.

These new SONARs are so complicated and have so many names I cannot keep them all straight. I was thinking about upgrading my SONAR this year, but I have not, and I will probably sit out the rest of the season to see what comes out next year. The product cycle in these new SONAR devices is very short. It seems like a new model comes out very six months now.

Jefecinco posted 08-04-2014 09:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Anglers are strange people. We spend so much on boats, tackle, fuel, etc. that the cost of the devices sold to help us find fish to catch is almost meaningless. The market for these devices is huge and the competition is fierce.

My best silly wild guess is that I save so much money by bringing home fresh fish I've just caught and dressed at about $2500 per pound that my fishing efforts are entirely justified.

Butch

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