America’s Cup: Patent problem with AC75
Published on October 27th, 2020
The prospect of litigation is increasing for the America’s Cup defender as the AC75 Class, which they revealed for the 36th America’s Cup, may have violated patents held by Brazilian naval engineer and boat builder Manoel Chaves.
Following the report, Threat of lawsuit for AC75 design, Anton Huggard, a patent engineer who works for the patent attorney representing Chaves, contacted Scuttlebutt Sailing News to provide the following information:
Our client believes the AC75 foil cant system as mandated in the AC75 Cup Rules and as used by Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC75 boats was copied (or at least inspired) by his design. Chaves’ Sail Booster System (or SBS foil cant system) was filed for in 2015.
This foil cant design for sailboats was widely publicized before ETNZ’s victory in the 2017 America’s Cup. ETNZ claim development of the AC75 began in late 2017, at a cost to the taxpayer of $3 million.
Our client has tried to obtain recognition for this but ETNZ have failed to answer his correspondence. He is now considering legal action for patent infringement. His attempts to arrange a settlement conference were unsuccessful and he has been unable reach a negotiation.
In correspondence with the lawyers for ETNZ we have received a simplistic denial of infringement, which our client is prepared to challenge in Court. He believes his patent protects the foil cant system.
At the request of Mr Chaves, we have put ETNZ and the Challengers on Notice of his patent. We have also written to the Minister of MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) and their Auditors as our client believes that his patent and all his prior design work is relevant to the amount paid to ETNZ for the alleged development of the AC75 Class Rules.
The MBIE, as the lead government agency in staging the 36th America’s Cup, has already had to investigate complaints of financial mismanagement and misuse of public funds against the Kiwi team, though no evidence of financial impropriety or misappropriation of funds was found.
The concept for the AC75 was revealed on November 21, 2017 by the Defender and Challenger of Record in which an integral feature of the boat is the use of twin canting T-foils, ballasted to provide righting-moment when sailing, and roll stability at low speed.
Chaves’ claim is the canting foils infringes his Sailing Booster System (SBS) which he received patents for in 2015 and 2016 and had on display at the 2016 Annapolis Boat Show.
36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:
• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)
• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• INEOS Team UK (GBR)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAWN
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA) – STATUS UNKNOWN
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAWN
Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.
Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
• December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
• January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
• March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match
Youth America’s Cup Competition (CANCELLED)
• February 18-23, 2021
• March 1-5, 2021
• March 8-12, 2021
AC75 launch dates:
September 6, 2019 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10, 2019 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2, 2019 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4, 2019 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1
October 16, 2020 – American Magic (USA), Boat 2
October 17, 2020 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 2
October 20, 2020 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 2