Arctic Cat suing BRP for patent infringement

Suit concerns off-throttle steering technology

Though it’s been years since Arctic Cat last produced a Tigershark personal watercraft, but Cat is still making its presence known in the industry by filing a patent-infringement suit against Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. and BRP U.S. Inc.

The suit alleges that BRP has committed substantial acts of infringement with its Sea-Doo personal watercraft on the intellectual property of Arctic Cat.

According to the suit, Arctic Cat was responsible for originally developing an effective off-throttle thrust mechanism to make personal watercraft safer. The technology provides riders with temporary “steerable thrust” when the rider turns in off-throttle situations to help prevent fatalities and injuries from collisions. Arctic Cat representatives demonstrated the technology to the Coast Guard, representatives of BRP and others in the PWC industry in 1999 and 2000.

Sea-Doo RXP 260

The United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Arctic Cat patents for its off-throttle steering technology, entitled “Controlled Thrust Steering System for Watercraft.”

The suit alleges that BRP originally attempted to provide off-throttle steering with an alternative technology called “Off-Power Assisted Steering” (OPAS) which relied on mechanical rudders in low and off-power situations. In 2009, BRP began transitioning its line of Sea-Doo PWC to “Off-Throttle Assisted Steering” (OTAS) technology that, according to the complaint, infringes the patents asserted by Arctic Cat. It should be noted that 2009 was the year Sea-Doo introduced its Intelligent Brake and Reverse system.

“We believe strongly in our technology,” says Michael Okerlund, vice president of legal affairs at Arctic Cat. “Even after withdrawing from the PWC market, we continued to develop, demonstrate and patent our controlled-thrust technology as we believed it would save lives, and that it represented the best solution to the off-throttle steering problem. The fact that BRP moved to our technology validates our assessment.”

“In our view, this timeline of events paints a very clear picture,” says Nicholas Boebel, of-counsel at Hagens Berman. “From our investigation, it appears that after seeing Arctic Cat’s demonstration, BRP initially took a different approach but ultimately decided that its own solution was inadequate. Unfortunately, the way we see it instead of choosing to be creative or approaching Arctic Cat directly, BRP simply took the technology that Arctic Cat worked hard to develop and protect.”

The suit states, “BRP determined that Arctic Cat’s OTAS technology provided enhanced rider safety and other benefits that were unavailable with BRP’s [Off-Power Assisted Steering] OPAS technology. On further information and belief, BRP’s adoption of OTAS technology has helped reduce the number of avoidable injuries and deaths from operation of Sea-Doo PWCs.”

“These acts of infringement have harmed and continue to harm Arctic Cat, and we believe that the company is entitled to relief as BRP has infringed upon Arctic Cat’s intellectual property,” Boebel added.