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    EcoTech Marine Pump Patent Challenged: Request for Re-Examination Filed

    There is a lot of buzz circulating among one of the industry’s brightest companies, EcoTech Marine. Two things in particular have brought them into the spotlight more than usual: 1) Their sponsored flow study (and resulting underperformance under the testing criteria by main competitor Tunze) and 2) Their to be released Radion LED light… I’ll give [...]

    There is a lot of buzz circulating among one of the industry’s brightest companies, EcoTech Marine. Two things in particular have brought them into the spotlight more than usual: 1) Their sponsored flow study (and resulting underperformance under the testing criteria by main competitor Tunze) and 2) Their to be released Radion LED light… I’ll give my thoughts on the Radion in another article (post-MACNA) when I can comment on its appearance.

    ecotech patent rexamination

    With everything appearing to go swimmingly I was pretty stunned when looking into Orbital’s patent re-examinations today, I came across a very recent re-exam request for EcoTech’s patented “Bracketless Magnetic Pump” — more commonly known as their Vortech line of aquarium pumps. And by recent, I mean August 26, 2011 recent.

    In reality, the story is not as big of a deal as a patent re-examination may sound. What is most revealing is how the aquarium industry has begun to protect and challenge intellectual property. This is no longer just KZ’s cone skimmer war, but has spread across subsets of the aquarium market.

    Back to the re-exam. The request was filed by Fulbright & Jaworski, LLP of Houston, Texas. In the manner that it was filed we don’t know who F&J was acting on behalf of, but my non-attorney opinion is that EcoTech will need to take this seriously.

    It appears that EcoTech has not immediately responded to re-exam request which gives the aquarium stalwarts 90 days to get their defense in line. My understanding of this is, if EcoTech comes out with a solid defense against the request filed, the re-exam is dead. If not, the formal re-exam process “begins”.

    The re-examination request pulls a bunch of patents one of which I previously never paid much attention to, despite the fact that it incorporates the magnetic coupling idea that is well… what makes a Vortech… a Vortech. Specifically, I am talking about Anthony J. Allis’s 2004 patent, apparently owned by Mag-Life, which was filed 5 months prior to EcoTech’s filing. The Allis patent describes a magnetically coupled aquarium motor as integrated in its filter system. You can read the full Allis patent here.

    ecotech marine patent

    In Claim 1, the re-examination argues that the Allis patent “meets every recited feature” of EcoTech’s. Below is a screen grab of the comparison that the filed re-examination makes between the Allis patent and EcoTech’s. If EcoTech defends this well it is a non event. If they do not, it could alter the aquarium pump marketplace.

    ecotech marine patent

    When I asked Tim Marks, President of EcoTech Marine, on his thoughts of the re-examination he responded with the fact that the evidence presented in the request was already considered by the USPTO. When looking at the references cited and looked at by the patent examiner, it’s true. See the very first one:

    ecotech patent

    Hopefully the USPTO will still feel the same. Can you imagine a Coralife  made, Vortech-style pump? No thanks.

    Related Posts

    1. EcoTech Marine’s New Vortech Battery Back Up : More Reliable, More Options, Same Price
    2. EcoTech Marine Video Contest
    3. EcoTech Marine Releasing New Products…No More Algae on your Glass?
    4. VorTech MP10 Update from EcoTech Marine
    5. EcoTech Marine Voluntarily Recalls Vortech Battery Cable (Updated)
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=517227649 Gareth Andrew Callear

      As I see it there are far too many Chinese clones of ridiculous inferiority out there and too many company’s stealing from each other, (dennerle having their hard work poached by fluval springs instantly to mind) I think companies should fight and have much more legal ground to stand on to protect their intellectual property because other wise all the hard work and money they put into their products will be wasted and their place in the market will be filled by who ever is cheapest regardless of quality and possibly even maring the company with substandard reputation because people only come across the clones, think chinese “brandless” eheims or tetratecs.

    • Anonymous

      When reviewing situations like these, the USPTO should have a provision that takes into consideration whether the patents in question have actually been used to produce something. It’s been 7 years since the Allis patent has been issued, yet clearly nobody has used it to make a product. If the owner of the patent has some product in mind that they want to get to market, I would think they would have done it already. My inner cynic is telling me that whoever is behind this re-examination is only looking to extort money from Ecotech. I doubt they’re actually interested in bringing a new product to market. This will turn out to be just another example in our hobby of the US patent system being abused to make lawyers rich.

    • Asonitez

      I like glassbox design for bringing articles like this to the light. However, I just wish they updated more often. I swear I’ve started visiting bi weekly hoping for new content but nothing.

    • Mr Fendster

      @jalexs:disqus … it’s not that the Allis patent has not gone into production, it is the fact that a patent should not have been registrable to Ecotech as there already existed the Allis patent of the technology. On the face of it the holders of the Allis patent would appear to have a case for restitution.
      Ironic isn’t it that the perpetrators of the Tunze misfortune now face their own schadenfruede.

    • http://glassbox-design.com/ GBD

      @289166eb772fba6d2603dc0a70e49c71:disqus I’ll try my best to update the site more frequently. For more info on the slowdown, see here: http://glassbox-design.com/2011/glassbox-changeup-2011/

    • John Hahn

      I still fail to see how using a magnetic coupling is an actual “benefit” AND how its really unique in design since magnetic coupling has been used in Iwaki pumps for decades and magnetic stirring devices.  Sure, the application has changed by placing it on an aquarium wall, but thats like patenting LED’s for use to light an aquarium (trollolol)…  nobody really invented a new concept; just used an existing product or method for a different application.  I dont think either of the companies deserve a patent.  If that means Coralife starts making these types of pumps, so be it…  competition is better than a monopoly and nobody is forced to buy a Coralife over a Vortech.

    • http://twitter.com/piotr_rowinski Piotr Rowinski

      Although I’m not a fan of low quality copies it would be intresting to see tunze’s version of vortech…

    • Rklion

      Good let coralife make their version. It will force ecotech to price their product more competitively(so cheaper) in order to compete. They are way too expensive for what they are although they are the best powerheads for sure.

    • Anonymous

      you’re right man

    • Crwright1990

      I have 8 of the Ecotech powerheads and everyone we have have been first more than ones and they don’t stand behind there product. Will never buy again… I see the MP60 they fixed the problem.

    • Advaquarist

      If the claim against EcoTech holds true then you’re off by about 180 degrees.

    • http://www.interaqua.dk/recirculating_aquaculture_systems.php Kleine Jackson

      Pretty Cool! How much could they probably be?

    • http://www.interaqua.dk/recirculating_aquaculture_systems.php Kleine Jackson

      Pretty Cool! How much could they probably be?

    • Pingback: ecotech patent challenged - Manhattan Reefs

    • Jay Loxton-Jacklin

      that does not give them the right to charge ridiculous prices and cut of the market for the majority of the hobbyists especially ones use use freshwater

    • Ryan Danials

      Some of the posts here are hilarious. Companies in the pharmaceutical, automotive and technology sectors have been patenting everything they can get their hands on left-right-and center for the past 50 years and you guys are getting worked up over a Vortech pump for your aquarium? Gimme a break.