Time Runs Out for Owner of Altimeter Patent

April 22, 2013, by Mandour & Associates, APC

Los Angeles – U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Elizabeth LaPorte recently ruled that Avocet Sports Technology Inc. waited an unreasonable amount of time, 6 years, to initiate a patent infringement case against Polar Electro, Inc.  Thus, she dismissed the case due to the doctrine of laches.

Avocet Sports Technology Inc., a Palo Alto, California company, tried to convince the Judge that the 6-year delay was due to a lack of funds needed to pursue litigation, but the Judge dismissed the excuse as having “no authority” to uphold it.  She further stated that Avocet’s claim of lack of knowledge was unjustified because Avocet Sports should have taken action sooner if it knew of possible infringing activity by Polar Electro.

Avocet Sports filed the complaint a year ago against Polar Electro in a California federal courtroom alleging that Polar infringed on one of its patents.  The patent at issue, U.S. Patent Number 5,058,427, issued in 1991 for “Methods for selectively accumulating altitude changes”.  The patent involves a strap-on device which Avocet Sports developed as a GPS-type of monitor which tracks a hiker, cyclist, or runner’s variations in altitude while on a trek.

Avocet Sports has been an innovator of outdoor sports products including compact cycling computers, altimeters, heart rate monitors and other related equipment since 1977.  Avocet Sport’s complaint against Polar Electro claimed the two companies had discussed the possibility of a partnership or license to the technology, but that Polar Electro had branched out on its own, copied the design, and then sold its own similar device.

Polar Electro, which focuses on sports, physiology and electronics has been developing heart rate monitors since 1977.  It now sells its products in over 80 different countries, employing 1200 people.  Polar Electro has been aggressively marketing and selling the elevation-tracking device since 2004, spending significant sums of money, unaware they may have been infringing on Avocet Sport’s patent.  Because of this, the Judge felt Polar Electro would be unduly prejudiced by Avocet’s long delay in filing an action against it.

Now that the case has been dismissed, it may never be determined if Polar Electro had in fact infringed the patent.