PORTLAND, Maine — GPS giant Garmin has reached a deal to buy DeLorme, the Yarmouth-based maker of the Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, for an undisclosed price.

Though most recognizable in Maine for its printed map of the state, the 40-year-old company increasingly has shifted to digital mapping and satellite communication devices.

“The Yarmouth facility will operate primarily as a research and development facility and will continue to develop two-way satellite communication devices and technologies,” Garmin, based in Olathe, Kansas, said in a statement Thursday.

With that change, the company will close its on-site map store in March, according to Kim Stiver, vice president of marketing for DeLorme. Stiver said the map store closure will mean a small number of layoffs, but she declined to say how many positions would be cut.

DeLorme employs 92 people full-time, six of whom work from other parts of the country.

The fate of the company’s printed maps is unclear but unchanged for the time being, according to Stiver and Ted Gartner, Garmin’s spokesman.

“The deal hasn’t closed, and we’re very early in the process of talking about integration with Garmin,” Stiver said. “They certainly admire our strengths and history in mapping.”

Sales of the company’s printed maps had dropped through the early 2000s, Stiver said, but have leveled off in recent years as “people are discovering the utility of using a paper map in conjunction with technology.”

“That’s how we’ve been supporting the atlas … and they’re still quite popular, not just in Maine,” Stiver said.

Gartner said Garmin is focused first on closing the deal. Garmin said it expects the purchase of privately held DeLorme to close in 30 to 60 days.

“We haven’t made a lot of decisions yet,” Gartner said. “There are a lot of assets [DeLorme has] that we’re interested in, and that includes the atlases and gazetteers.”

Garmin said in a statement that DeLorme’s inReach satellite communication devices brought it to consider the acquisition.

DeLorme has faced challenges to its patents on those devices and been hit with a $6.2 million civil penalty by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed that penalty but invalidated the patent upon which it was based in November. DeLorme is seeking a new hearing before the ITC.

Gartner said Garmin is not taking on any liability for those penalties with the acquisition and that the company is not worried about any related legal challenges in the future.

“The inReach is a technology that really nobody else has,” Gartner said. “We think that with Garmin’s size we can put that in the hands of more people in many different areas, whether hikers, hunters, boaters or pilots.”

Garmin’s holding company, Garmin Ltd., is based in Switzerland.

Stiver said Garmin has signed a lease for the building, which is still owned by DeLorme’s founding family. The company’s signature globe display, named Eartha, will remain open to the public in Yarmouth.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.