October 1, 2008

Senate Passes Whitehouse-Championed Bill Strengthening Copyright Protections for Newport Boat Builders

Legislation Prohibits Copying Vessel Hull and Deck Designs

Washington, D.C. – The Senate has unanimously adopted a bipartisan bill backed by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) aimed at strengthening copyright protections for boat designers in Newport and across the country.

The legislation, which passed the House in August, was also introduced in the Senate by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The Senate last year unanimously approved similar legislation, and the updated bill passed today provides additional clarification for the U.S. Navy’s fleet.

“Newport’s boat design and building industry is known around the world for its skill and talent, and I’m proud to support this important industry through stronger design protections,” said Whitehouse, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Designers put hours of thought, technical expertise, and hard work into these vessels, and it’s simply wrong for someone else to steal their ideas. I hope these small changes will help boat builders in Newport and around the country continue to produce exciting and innovative new designs.”

The marine trades industry makes up nearly two percent of New England’s total employment, employing nearly 40,000 people with an additional 69,000 jobs created indirectly. These jobs infuse $5.6 billion into the region’s economy.

The bill, which will now be sent to the President for signature, will amend the original Vessel Hull Act passed in 1998 to clarify the difference between the “hull” and the “deck” of a ship, closing a loophole that has been exploited to infringe the intellectual property rights of vessel hull designers. The loophole has been exposed in court decisions. The updated legislation, which passed Tuesday, addresses recent concerns expressed by the Navy, and provides assurance to the Department of Defense that government and defense designs will not be subject to unwarranted restrictions.


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