Crowley Liner Service called competitor Trailer Bridge’s allegations of patent infringement “specious” and said it would continue to use the disputed equipment to load and discharge flat-deck barges in the Puerto Rico trade.
Trailer Bridge sued Crowley in U.S. District Court in San Juan, claiming Crowley violated Trailer Bridge’s patented loading system. The lawsuit seeks damages and an injunction requiring Crowley to quit using the reach stackers.
Crowley issued a statement Friday saying it “is confident that it has not infringed a valid patent” and “does not intend to allow a specious claim of patent infringement to prevent it from meeting the needs of customers in the Puerto Rico market.”
The dispute arose in the wake of Horizon Lines’ exit from the U.S. domestic Puerto Rico trade at the end of 2014. Crowley and Sea Star Line quickly added container-carrying barges to compete for Horizon’s abandoned market share.
Trailer Bridge objected to Crowley’s use of a loading system that Trailer Bridge patented in the 1990s. The system uses dock-to-barge ramps and a reach stacker for loading and discharging containers.
Crowley said its flat-deck barge “uses basic equipment for loading and unloading the vessel. The use of that equipment is obvious, was first deployed by Crowley decades ago, and is widely used in many markets today.”