Panbo

Raymarine nearly sold(?) & Honeywell's holiday surprise

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Dec 18, 2009
Raymarine_news_12-18-2009.JPG

The news from London (reported somewhat differently here) is that Raymarine's board is now negotiating with a single buyer, which is not Garmin, and anticipates a deal in which all debts will be paid off and credit lines extended (but from which share holders may get zilch).  Of course the deal is not done, but it sure sounds more certain, and a lot like what many of us were predicting last month.  We may not know who the buyer is for a while, but doesn't it seem even less likely that Raymarine will go away?  However, part of the due diligence still underway may involve the lawsuit that Honeywell laid on Raymarine, Furuno, and Navico Wednesday...

I have no idea how important Honeywell's suit is, and news is hard to find unless you sign up for a service like Law360, which reports:

Honeywell asserts five different patents related to a range of navigation-related innovations, including technology for determining a vehicle's true north heading, a system that sends signals to indicate a vehicle's position using multiple types of sensors, technology related to an autopilot system, a method for picking a route when there is bad weather or other hazards, and display technology that can show weather information in two dimensions and terrain data in three dimensions.
I do know that the patents at issue are 5,617,317; 5,631,656; 5,785, 281; 6,289,277; and 6,653,947, and I also obtained a PDF scan of the filing you can download here.  One of my first reactions was "What about Garmin?" and Dan Corcoran, who I happened to chat with this morning, suggested that maybe Garmin is already licensing the technology from Honeywell, which would make this suit more meaningful.  Maybe one of you knows, or can sleuth out, more?  I just hope that this action didn't come as a nasty surprise to marine electronics folks about to head into the holidays, and that it won't result in higher equipment costs for us consumers.

Honeywell_lawsuit.JPG

Comments

Intellectual Property suits are almost always a form of extortion. It takes forever to find people who can even adjudicate the matter, so the sued usually pay the litigator to go away. Everyone loses but the consumer most of all.

Posted by: Mason at December 18, 2009 4:55 PM | Reply

Honeywell and Garmin are being sued by Pioneer.

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601101&sid=ad.Xob8oXHqY

Nice to see the bottom of the legal profession slither out from under the rocks for the holidays.

Posted by: Arnie at December 19, 2009 7:44 AM | Reply

Ho Ho Ho for Honeywell, or Ha Ha Ha !!!

My analysis, based on seeing companies harassed or harassing others over IP and investigating the costs of protecting my own IP, is that this isn�t going to net Honeywell much at all.

I have not pulled the entire text of the patents, but the relatively young age and summaries for all of them look very problematic.

In the case of the autopilot, it�s clearly for aircraft. I am not a historian on auto pilot technology for boats, but quite possibly the autopilot capability in our boats pre-dates this patent making it a pointless. Is this just sloppy or attempting to add weight to some other weak patent in this mix? Also boat autopilots that I am aware of don�t technically use GPS to pilot unless thru integration with a chartplotter and even then they certainly can�t be described as functioning as follows �Maneuvers which were initiated and completed by the pilot during the rehearsal mission are then repeated during the automatic flight from the flight information stored in the memory.�

The above is an example of a patent Garmin may already have encountered with Honeywell, given the aircraft side of their business, and if so has already dealt with it either as a nuisance or by paying royalties if it is legitimate. Many of the other patents, based again on the summaries, are either aircraft or automobile related, and Garmin again would probably be already past this.

In the case of true north patent, is this a joke? GPS adds something incrementally, but otherwise other technologies have established true north utilizing inertial sensor systems since world war II. Not to mention, the products I am familiar with don't use inertial sensor systems but rather flux gate to show heading, and when the GPS Course over ground (COG) value is shown for a boat that is not moving, it isn't corrected by that flux gate value anyhow. Now that I see this patent, I wonder if that correction wasn't done because the designers of charplotters are aware of this patent and so didn't add the functionality to correct the COG with SOG=0? Even then, isn�t the use of another heading source to correct a GPS COG value an obvious thing to do as opposed to a new work of art?

Lets just say for the moment the body of the patent I didn't read covers all the bases, then what about all those iPhone�s out there that can determine true north, how much is Honeywell getting in royalties there? What would be a reasonable royalty per unit expectation for what Navaco, Raymarine, and Furuno should then pay? For that matter, why isn't this suit aimed at Apple? Apple actually has an interial sensor in their latest iPhone and a volume of product that dwarfs the marine industry.

I could go on, but I think I made the point. It would be interesting if a Panbo reader in the industry could answer these questions:

- This can�t be the first time these companies have been harassed by patent holders. What has been the result of similar patent cases when aircraft patents are attempted to be applied in the marine environment? Or how about patents over how GPS and other technologies are incrementally applied to old technologies ?

- How much money is at stake? Any royalties can only be applied to that portion of the product revenue Navico, Raymarine, and Furuno derive from the technology. On the surface these patents would seem to amount to 0.01% or less of the revenue of their product line. Even if they had to pay a 5% fee on the use of the technologies, the final numbers are really small (0.0005% of revenue or less).

On the surface this seems more of an April�s Fools Joke than a nasty Christmas present. So instead of Ho Ho Ho for Honeywell, I am thinking Ha Ha Ha.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at December 19, 2009 9:32 AM | Reply

Honeywell tried to sue an avionics company on similar basis back in 2004. They lost! Now they expect to try the marine industry. I hope Raymarine counter sues.

Posted by: StraightLace at December 19, 2009 4:28 PM | Reply

We're forgetting about the impending sale of Raymarine, and the news that Garmin is no longer in the running. Remember, that unholy marriage would have been catastrophic. That includes both companies involved, as well as the consumer and end user. We saw what happened when Navico consolidated, no need to even go there. This means that whoever purchases the company will stick with what Raymarine knows, which is making product the way they've been doing since the Raytheon days. The prospect of a Garmin takeover would have given that conglomeration an instant 60% market share, and not being a fan of Olathe's corn fed machinery, I can now swallow my vomit and breathe easy now that both said entities will continue to be independent competitors which will in turn promote the introduction of better technology to the market end of run on sentence.

Posted by: Labozza at December 19, 2009 5:43 PM | Reply

Labozza-
Back in the Raytheon days the recreational stuff was basically re-branded JRC.

Posted by: Arnie at December 19, 2009 7:18 PM | Reply

I am really sick of patent lawsuits -- they are one of the biggest wastes of time and money in our modern civilization.

Years ago I started work at a new computer company. One of my jobs involved working with code that was modified daily by a large(ish) number of programmers. It never compiled without major effort since one of the programmers was guarenteed to have broken something. That was frustrating so I came up with a way of splitting up the programmer's work so if one person's code failed you could work with their previous day's output.

It was a pretty obvious computer science solution to the problem and took me about two nights to implement. There was even a feature in the operating system designed to do exactly this sort of thing, and what I was implementing was pretty similiar to how we had done it at my previous company. No big deal and I forgot about what I had done.

Years later one of those programmers won a patent for our company. The title of the patent was fancy but it was basically what I had done years ago. By then a manager, it fell upon me to review the patent documents. Inside the packet sent off to the patent office was the heart of the code to prove the patent. It looked extremely familiar! In fact the coding style was a bit of a "blast from the past" since it was in a style that I had once had to go to great effort to unlearn.

So it ended up that my company now held a patent on an idea that was blindingly obvious to any competent programmer, and an implementation that had taken me at most two days to write. (Most real work that I do takes months or years.)

I read the patents too and can't add much to Arnie's excellent analysis except to note that it seems as if Honeywell is trying to assert that they own a patent on as basic an idea as using an external device to correct a GPS heading. I suppose if you check your GPS course with a magnetic compass mounted on your dash you will have to pay Honeywell a small, reasonable fee.

Perhaps some legal drone in Honewell has a quota to meet.

Posted by: George at December 19, 2009 9:56 PM | Reply

I googled honeywell lawsuits,seems they took the lcd makers to court in 2004 and won.
better case or better lawyers?who knows.

Re Raymarine sale I hope it goes well cuz I don't like Garmin,I have dealer experience with that blood sucking squid called Navico,that throws out Simrad,Northstar,etc.
That leaves Furuno who don't seem to have their stuff together either when it comes to Canadian charting for example.
Geeze whats a boater to?

I have money to spend now,for a full package,but
my new radar pole remains empty for now.

Posted by: peter coupland at December 20, 2009 12:12 PM | Reply

Peter - If you're buying an integrated system (radar / plotter), evaluate the charts available today (not the charts promised to be available very soon...) first and foremost. And consider the charts in all the areas in which you might operate in the next three years. If the charts are lousy, the rest of the system is irrelevant.

Posted by: Russ at December 21, 2009 9:20 AM | Reply

Honeywell's complaint is pretty lame and vague. It's best to plead sparsely, but there has to be something specific. I doubt if it can survive a motion to dismiss. The Federal Trade Commission already dismissed a similar complaint by Honeywell against Garmin.

Posted by: H.L. Johnson, Esq. at December 21, 2009 9:46 AM | Reply

Honeywell's "Learning Autopilot" patent in 1998 is a joke!!!!

I worked on Anshuetz Adaptive Autopilots that were installed on Oil Tankers in the early 1980s...

Furuno also had their "Advanced Auto", Simrad copied it and calls it "No Drift", mode on the FAP330/300 series in the early 1990s before the Honeywell patent as well. This is a GPS Line Of Position correction mode.

The claims are all total BS and will be dismissed after the Honeywell Scumsucker Attorneys try to extract as much blood as possible from our cottage industry.

RK

Posted by: RK at December 21, 2009 10:55 AM | Reply

It is likely that the patent case will have minimal impact on the sale. These things pop up all the time for any reasonably sized company. It is a well-known "tax" paid to lawyers in exchange for doing business in the US.

It is unreasonable to expect that modestly paid government patent examiners can oppose the inventers (experts in their field) working through expert lawyers. Thus patents are truly examined for the first time during the initial court case. Those cases are almost always presented in rural Texas where judges and juries have a history of quick patent convictions. Thus the real U. S. patent examiners are the citizens of rural Texas.

Any reasonably sized company is notified of patent violations maybe monthly. Most of the time you are safe to simply send back a letter explaining why you don't infringe. If it escalates into a real court case it can get expensive for both sides if it is the first time through for a particular patent application.

Sometimes it is a big game of "chicken". One of our customers once sued us for nonsense patent violations and we cut off their product supply (messing up a billion dollar product line of their own). Those lawyers were quickly fired by that company's executives.

Posted by: Craig at December 21, 2009 11:14 AM | Reply

I suspect it's a mistake but here's a bit of Raymarine 'news':

"Shares in marine equipment supplier Raymarine slumped because Garmin decided not to bid for the whole company. The announcement was made after the market closed on Friday. Garmin will instead buy the operating subsidiary. Due diligence is being carried out."

http://www.sharecast.com/cgi-bin/sharecast/story.cgi?story_id=3191916

Posted by: Ben at December 21, 2009 2:18 PM | Reply

Any more news on Raymarine?

Shareprice still low must be time to make a payment to the banks soon ??

Posted by: Andy Murray at March 5, 2010 6:33 PM | Reply

Sorry, Andy, I don't know anything. Lots of people were hoping for an announcement during the Miami show, and the rumor that it's FLIR who's in the process of buying Raymarine was rampant, but no one from either company even winked about it. But the Raymarine folks seemed confident that something is happening, and I don't think share price means anything at this point.

Posted by: Ben at March 6, 2010 7:38 AM | Reply

Posted by: Ben at March 11, 2010 10:13 AM | Reply

Dam should have bought some when they were 2p!

I can only assume they have had someone value the business and is offering that amount for it.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 11, 2010 10:19 AM | Reply

Wow, Raymarine has two more suitors, making three or four total (hard to keep track). One is a "direct competitor" though the likelihood of that deal is apparently dubious:

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE63720K20100408

Posted by: Ben at April 9, 2010 4:44 PM | Reply

Posted by: Ben at July 19, 2010 11:13 AM | Reply

I agree with most of what is written, although if I had written that article I would have sighted a couple of things:

In the case of the autopilot patent, it’s clearly for aircraft. Boat autopilots that I am aware of don’t technically use GPS unless thru integration with a chartplotter and even then they certainly can’t be described as functioning as follows “Maneuvers which were initiated and completed by the pilot during the rehearsal mission are then repeated during the automatic flight from the flight information stored in the memory.”

In the case of true north patent, is this a joke? GPS adds something incrementally, but otherwise other technologies have established true north utilizing inertial sensor systems since world war II. Isn’t GPS an obvious extension, not a new work of art? What about all those iPhone’s out there that can do this function, how much is Honeywell getting in royalties there?

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at July 19, 2010 11:58 AM | Reply

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