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