A federal judge has decided that North Sails Group Inc. infringed on three Sobstad Corp. patents in the production of three-dimensional laminated sails. If the decision is upheld, Sobstad will receive a 7 percent royalty plus interest on all of North Sails' 3-D laminated sales since 1992.
In a March 31 decision, Judge Dominic Squatrito ordered North Sails to halt production of the high-performance sails of nonwoven fibers and film. However, the judge granted a stay that will allow North Sails to continue manufacturing the sails pending an appeals review that could take a year. The sails are made at the firm's plant in Minden, Nev., which employs more than 110.
Sailmaker Sobstad of Greensboro, Ga., filed the patent lawsuit in 1992 in U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn. The trial and fact-finding phases ended in 1998.
A lightweight 3-D laminated sail uses materials only where needed. When they were introduced, they represented a major change from sewn cloth. The sails are made on a full-size, adjustable mold. Materials may include carbon fiber, Kevlar aramid fiber and Mylar polyester film from DuPont, and Honeywell International Inc.'s ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene fiber.
Terry Kohler's diversified Windway Capital Corp. of Sheboygan, Wis., is the majority owner of North Sails, based in Milford, Conn.