No Decision on North Sails’ Stay of Injunction |

No Decision on North Sails’ Stay of Injunction

Rex Bovee

Officials and employees of the North Sails manufacturing plant in Minden waited into Friday evening to learn whether a federal judge would allow them to resume making the company’s seamless yacht sails.

A March 31 ruling by U.S. District Judge Dominic J. Squatrito in Hartford, Conn., enjoined North Sails from making any more of its 3DL sails, the high-end racing sail made at the Minden plant. Sobstad Corp. of Greensboro, Ga., alleged in 1992 that North Sails’ 3DL design infringed on three of Sobstad’s patents and the judge agreed last week.

North Sails had asked Squatrito to stay the injunction and let the Minden plant continue making sails already ordered and paid for, pending a ruling on North Sails’ appeal of the patent infringement ruling. The Friday hearing on the stay request continued into the evening, according to Minden plant general manager John Welch.

“The main office told us the judge started the hearing in morning, then had to interrupt it to hear another case in the morning. He came back to our case, then had to leave in the afternoon for another case,” Welch said.

The last word Welch had as of 6 p.m. was that the hearing was still in progress.

“We’re hoping to get a favorable ruling on the stay. Then we can get on the telephone and call everybody back in and get back into production,” Welch said.

He said none of the Minden plant’s 119 employees had been laid off when the sail molding line was shut down Monday because of Squatrito’s injunction.

“We’ve kept everyone on full pay, doing clean-up work and other tasks in anticipation of getting a favorable ruling today,” Welch said.

Squatrito’s ruling on the patent infringement suit requires North Sails to pay Sobstad a 7-percent royalty for all 3DL sails sold since the suit was filed. Jay Hanson, North Sail executive vice president, said allowing completion of the sails already in production would not harm Sobstad because it would receive the royalties on those as well.

Besides seeking the stay, North Sails is preparing the appeal of Squatrito’s ruling on the patent infringement claim and will ask to be allowed to continue production of the 3DL sails until the appeal is decided, Hanson said.

North Sails is also preparing to increase its production of its more conventional panel-design sales to fill in the market gap that would be left if the 3DL design cannot be produced, Hanson said. Alternate uses for the Minden plant and some its staff are also being explored in case North Sails has no success with its stay requests, he said.