Posted by Editoress on 11/26/10
Canadian bicycle manufacturer Cervélo has been involved in a lengthy court battle with German manufacturer Canyon over alleged patent infringements by Cervélo against Canyon. The claimed infringement is for older Cervélo designs (not current ones), including the R3, R3SL and RS designs, which allegedly violate Canyon's patent over a flattened seat tube near the bottom bracket. Cervélo argues that the design pre-dates Canyon's patent, and that therefore the patent is invalid.
After Canyon won the first round of the dispute at a court in Düsseldorf, Germany in September, Cervélo appealed to the European Patent Office (EPO) regarding the validity of the original patent filing. The EPO has now ruled on the matter, stating that a specific aspect of the design is patentable.
Therefore, Canyon is claiming victory that its patent is valid, while Cervélo is also claiming victory - pointing out that the original broadly-based patent has been struck down, and thus the Düsseldorf court ruling was based on a patent that is no longer valid (and that even the narrow patent interpretation will eventually be deemed invalid). Cervélo hinted in their response to the ruling that they are likely to return to court with this argument.
Both sides agree that consumers will not be affected by the ruling, no matter what the eventual outcome.
Following the decision of the district court in Düsseldorf in September this year that the Cervélo frames R3, R3SL and RS constitute a violation of Canyon's European patent EP 1737724, the appeal hearing about the legal validity of that ruling took place at the European Patent Office in Rijswijk near Den Haag yesterday. During the hearing the European Patent Office was satisfied that Canyon's EP patent was indeed fully patentable. The patent refers to a bicycle seat tube with a special load-bearing design which is characteristically flat on the side of the cycle's chain rings. In the case of the principle claim it was clearly established that the flattened side of the seat tube created clearance for a front derailleur and chain rings.
Canyon's Head of R&D Dr. Michael Kaiser explained after the hearing, "The design of the seat tube as described in the patent allows the construction of a diamond-shaped frame in accordance with UCI-regulations, which features 20% greater stiffness in the bottom bracket area at an almost identical weight. We first implemented this design on our first Ultimate CF frame with F10 technology. This frame has been setting benchmarks in terms of STW ratio for several years now. We are now examining the possibility of further steps with regard to Cervélo. This applies in particular to the violation against our patent in other countries."
The European patent is valid in nine countries as well as in Germany. The other countries are: Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Spain. Canyon Bicycles GmbH also has corresponding patents in the USA and China as well as patents pending in New Zealand and Canada.
Canyon CEO Roman Arnold said with reference to the verdict already reached by the district court in Düsseldorf, "I would like to emphasise [sic] once again that this judgement will have no effect on private persons."
In September the court in Duesseldorf made a ruling based on Claim 1 of the Canyon seattube patent. Yesterday, the European Patent Office declared Claim 1 invalid. They based this on the Barra patent from 1942, which already identified all features described in Claim 1. The EPO also accepted the Klein Q-Pro Carbon frame presented by Cervélo as evidence of a frame with flattening on the base of the seattube on the chain ring side.
The EPO would only allow Canyon to keep its patent after narrowing its scope. This narrower scope means the original Claim 1 on which the Dueseldorf court based its decision no longer exists, and we can now revert back to the court.
The EPO further stated that the features on the Litespeed Vortex and Gazelle ACC Pro, presented at the hearing by Cervélo, were of interest and could influence the outcome of this case if satisfactory evidence of first use can be presented. We have at this point received a letter from Litespeed confirming that this frame was produced before the patent date and are confident we will obtain similar evidence from Gazelle, so that even the more narrow version of Claim 1 will not hold up.
Due to publicity surrounding this case, several other manufacturers have come forward with frames showing prior use of the features described in the patent. Together with other evidence already in Cervélo's possession but entered too late for yesterday's hearing, this makes it unlikely that any part of the Claim 1 can survive in the long run. We would like to thank all our colleagues in the bike industry for their continued support.
We agree with Canyon on one thing, which is that this case will have no effect on consumers.
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