Issue 152 | January 26, 2004
Copyright Office and USPTO
Report on the VDHPA
 On November 3, 2003, the U.S. Copyright Office and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued their report on "The Vessel Hull Design Protection Act: Overview and Analysis," available at http://www.copyright.gov/reports/vhdpa-report.pdf. The report concludes that after five years, "it is too soon to tell whether the VHDPA has had significant overall effect on the boat building industry" and "there is insufficient information upon which to base a conclusion regarding the impact of the VHDPA on the creation of new designs and the price of protected hulls."

As discussed in Issue 56 of this newsletter on March 6 at http://www.aplf.org/mailer/issue56.html, Congress directed the Register of Copyrights and the Director of the USPTO to conduct a study on the effectiveness of the VHDPA. This little-known law provides sui generis intellectual property protection for original designs of vessel hulls. Although it appears that only one lawsuit has been filed under the VHDPA (Blazer Boats, Inc. v. Maverick Boat Co., Inc. Case No. 02-14283 CIV, June 17, 2002, S.D. Fla), Genmar Holdings, Inc. commented on a number of cease and desist letters that it had sent with satisfactory results.

Since its enactment in 1998, the Copyright Office has registered and published 156 vessel hull designs at http://www.copyright.gov/vessels/list/index.html. While the boat building industry voiced concerns that publishing registered hull designs on the Internet facilitates illegal copying, the report concluded that no evidence of harm was offered at the hearings. Some industry commentators also suggested expanding the scope of protection to include add-on items such as masts, sails, yards and rigging. However, the Copyright Office responded that it will continue using its current interpretation of the statutory definition for "hull" as limited to the "frame or body of a vessel, including the deck of a vessel."

Share your thoughts on the VDHPA with the author of this issue of the "APLF Updates," Bill Heinze (bill.heinze@tkhr.com), at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley LLP in Atlanta, Georgia USA.

The information contained in this email is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice. Neither the APLF nor the author intends to create an attorney client relationship by providing this information to you through this message.