North Sails gets stay |

North Sails gets stay

Rex Bovee

MINDEN – The molding room at North Sails’ manufacturing plant is back in operation, making the world’s most popular racing yacht sails while appealing a patent infringement ruling on the sails’ design.

“At this moment, we have a stay until the appeal is heard and we’re back in full operation,” John Welch, general manager of the plant that employs 119, said at noon Saturday.

The firm had ceased production of its 3DL molded sails a week ago after a federal judge in Connecticut ruled the design infringed on patents owned by another sail maker, Sobstad Corp. The Minden plant’s product propelled 11 of 12 competing race teams in the 2000 America’s Cup yacht races.

North Sails has until the end of the month to appeal the patent ruling. Welch said his understanding is the stay will allow North Sails to continue producing the 3DL sails until the appeal ruling is issued.

If North Sails loses the appeal, Sobstad will receive a 7-percent royalty for all sales since July 1992 of the designs found to have infringed Sobstad’s patents.

The legal battle pits two former partners against each other for dominance in the yacht- racing world.

Peter G. Conrad is the owner of Sobstad and holder of many patents. Thomas A. Whidden, the president of North Sails, is a former partner of Conrad and the longtime tactician for America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner.

Their 14-year partnership ended in late 1986, when Whidden left Sobstad, despite owning about 47 percent of its stock. He became president of Sobstad’s larger rival, North Sails, the following February, setting the stage for their dispute over technology.