Sidewinder

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A Brief History
By Dan Milford - April 6, 2004</b>

The Sidewinder trademark (for boats) was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on January 6, 1969, under the name of Los Altos Marine Incorporated, located at 4898 El Camino Real, Los Altos, California. In their 1969 model full color brochure, Sidewinder Boats claimed to be the world's largest designer/producer of V-bottom ski boats, with manufacturing facilities in California and Canada. Built for speed, Sidewinders were designed for the ultimate in racing, skiing, and personal pleasure. World record holder, Ken Baker, had designed two high performance hulls - the famous V bottom and the new tunnel. These hulls were multi-laminated and assembled by hand. Variety and choice were the order of the day with standard and deluxe versions, thirty-two color combinations, and power plants from outboard through inboard-outboard and jet available. Appointed with choices of metalflake trim, racing stripes, tuck and roll wrap around vinyl seating, and color keyed all weather carpeting, these stylish, powerful, and maneuverable boats turned heads at many a beach. (In fact they still do!)

Models available in 1969 were the V- bottom, low profile (Lo Pro) designs in 16 and 18 ft. lengths. Both could be had in the Deluxe version (16 ft. at 750 lb. and 18 ft. at 900 lb.) or the "stripped down" (100 lb. lighter) Standard versions. They could be had in outboard (135 hp max for the16 and 150 hp max for the 18), inboard/outboard (140 hp max for the 16 and 225 hp max for the 18) or jet drive (350 hp max for the 16 and 500 hp max for the 18 - although text in the brochure claims up to 600 horsepower was available!) Engines up to 455 cu. in. could be had. The tunnel model version, used predominately for racing, was available in either a 15 ft. or 17 ft. length, and could be custom built for single, double and triple outboard engine classes.

The revolutionary Super Sidewinder 16/18 ft. design was filed for a patent (by Ken Baker and Ronald Plescia) in the US on October 17, 1969 and granted patent on November 3, 1970 (Patent Number 219,118). Subsequent patent designs were filed and granted for the 14 ft. Super, XL deep-vee, and XL Tri-hull.

In 1970, Sidewinder relocated from Los Altos, up the road to 3545 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. In 1970 and '71 boats were also manufactured in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Meanwhile Sidewinders were being manufactured under the Cobra name, by California Fiberglass Limited in British Columbia, Canada.

In 1971, Ken Baker, president of Sidewinder Marine, Inc. in Palo Alto, California was in litigation over a lawsuit filed by Sidewinder Marine against twenty manufacturers, who had copied the revolutionary Super Sidewinder design, first produced in 1970. Imitators included Marlin, Tahiti, Wriedt, and Taylor. In 1971/72 production moved from Palo Alto to Anderson, CA. and by July 1972, at least four manufacturers had admitted infringement on the Sidewinder design patents. About 1971 Canadian Sidewinder production moved to Ontario, where, by 1972, they were manufactured as Sidewinders - not Cobras, by California Glass Marine.

In 1974 the Thompson Boat Company purchased manufacturing rights for Sidewinder boats and continued to manufacture them under the Sidewinder banner at Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Later Sidewinders (by this time only the 16 and 18 ft. Super models) were built by Thompson in St. Charles, Michigan and finally in Swan Creek, Michigan.

In Canada the last Sidewinders were made in the late 1980's and California Glass Marine folded in the early '90's. The last US Sidewinder (the 18SS) appeared in the 1990 Thompson Boat Company brochure. Thompson met its demise in September 2002, when the assets were sold in a liquidation auction.


Boat manufacturing was organized under the Shasta Fiberglass Corporation and distribution by Sidewinder Marine, Inc., both served by Ken Baker as president.


Sidewinder Marine also produced and sold a line of models marketed as Las Vegas Boats.


The following is an excerpt from the court case, as described in the The Federal Reporter - Volume 597 - Page 204 - 1979

The Super Sidewinder continued to be a critical success in the months following its Chicago debut. It was called "[p]robably the most futuristic boat in the entire New York Boat Show," and a "big attraction to the younger set" there as well (PLEx. 20). In Atlanta, the new boat was noted as being "several years ahead of the market in design" (PLEx. 21).

...manufacturers followed Schuster's lead and either marketed splash copies of their own or brought out slightly modified versions of the Sidewinder design. Altogether there were five or six copies put out in the first year, with an eventual total of at least eighteen.3 (Id. 53). Testimony at trial lends some support to the allegation that the defendant in this action, Starbuck Kustom Boats and Products, Inc. ("Star- buck"), engaged in direct or indirect copying of the Sidewinder design for its own 16' and 17'8 boats. (IV R. 9-14 passim). Because of this sudden, extensive copying activity, Sidewinder — which had filed for patent protection through Baker and Plecia only after the Chicago show — sought to expedite consideration of its application in the Patent Office by means of a "petition to make special." The company thus took on the burden of submitting a copy of all references "deemed most clearly related to the subject matter" of the claim. Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, § 708.02 (VHXd) (3d ed. 1961). As noted, the subject patent was granted under this procedure on November 3, 1970. The six references cited by the Patent Examiner bore no close resemblance to plaintiff's design, and only a boat called the Nova "somewhat resembled" the Super Sidewinder in side-view, as pointed out by the court below. 418 F.Supp. at 226. Once the patent had issued, Sidewinder proceeded to sue or negotiate to settlement with a number of alleged infringers. Most of the settlements involved signing a license agreement allowing the copier to continue marketing the patented design, with payment of royalties to Sidewinder. Sidewinder's notable courtroom success was against Robert Burns and his Cheetah Boat Mfg. Co. The District Court for the Central District of California there upheld the validity of the Super Sidewinder patent, found it to be infringed, and awarded damages to the patent-holder.

They consist of three prior design patents for boats bearing no resemblance to the Super Sidewinder, a sales brochure with the Sidewinder and other boats, and another sales brochure for a boat called the Nova which somewhat resembled

...been in the public domain before 1969. The claim itself was for "the ornamental design for a boat, as shown," making no separate reference to the deck or hull. The court found and concluded that the line drawings claimed to constitute an over-all boat design subject to patent protection failed to meet the constitutional requirement of invention reflected in the ...


A forum for Sidewinder Boat Owner's can be found at: http://sidewinder-boats.com/


Model Information


1969 Information


Sidewinder Boats in Use


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