A jury last week awarded Charles Hall, self-proclaimed father of the modern waterbed, $4.8 million in a patent infringement lawsuit, Mr. Hall's lawyer said.
The suit, heard by a six-member U.S. District Court jury, was brought against an importer of Taiwanese-made waterbeds, Intex Plastics Sales Co., of Long Beach, Calif.The jury ruled two weeks ago that Mr. Hall's 1971 waterbed patent had been infringed, then deliberated the size of the damages.
Mr. Hall's lawyer, Jack Slobodin, said the award amounted to about 9.5 percent of the company's sales of $50 million. He said the judge would determine the amount of interest but that it would total about $3 million.
In addition, he said, the jury found "willful infringement" in the case, which means the judge could award treble damages.
Mr. Hall, 47, a Santa Rosa businessman who designed his first waterbed as a college project, believes he is entitled to royalties for millions of waterbeds sold before his patent expired in 1988. He has threatened to file similar suits against other companies.
According to the Waterbed Manufacturers Association, about 1,200 companies are making waterbeds today. The industry, now worth about $2 billion a year, grew rapidly after the beds were popularized in the 1960s.
An attorney for Intex Plastics argued that Mr. Hall's patent was invalid
because his design was not sufficiently different from waterbeds that were already used by some hospitals.