28 November 2010

Wanted -- Bicycle Patent Counsel?

Editorial Comment

I am a bit worried that I need to prepare in case I receive a letter threating legal action from a certain Colonel Manfred von Holstein, something about my Cervelo R3-SL infringing a patent of a great German bicycle manufacturer, Canyon.  Seriously, Dominic mentioned to me yesterday that Cervelo had lost some kind of lawsuit to Canyon recently ... so I had to look for it.
Can't we just get along?

Reading both the Canyon and Cervelo press releases (you can find them on their websites, or check HERE where both are printed one after the other), you would think these were two entirely different courts.  Canyon gets excited about the fact that the EPO -- that's the "European Patent Office", not the illegal performance enhancing substance -- found that its "patent was fully patentable".  Nice to hear, but does not mean anything.  But Cervelo points out that in fact the EPO ruled the relevant claim of Canyon invalid, and sent it back to the local court for Canyon to try to prove a narrower claim, and Cervelo mentions 4 frames that already used the narrower concept before Canyon filed for its patent ...

My quick assessment is that Canyon is using this for publicity purposes -- pushing out misleading "victory" statements when it has achieved no such thing -- and trying to stain the reputation of Cervelo.  It declared victory on November 18, before the EPO hearing was even held on November 24, a pre-emptive strike.  And I can see lots of articles have been removed from sites -- no doubt after Cervelo or its fans complained.  A low blow by Canyon.  By the time this is over, there will be lots of interim decisions, lots of mistaken releases and parroting news stories that "Cervelo frames found to infringe Canyon patent" (a Google search finds this one on Cyclingnews.com, now removed but available in a cached version on Google -- totally misleading headline, even though the story quotes from both parties' press releases). The actual court case will fade away without any final judgment that Cervelo did anything wrong, on a frame design that it will have long since stopped making.

Both companies are wrong about the one thing they agree on.  The Canyon CEO says:  "I would like to emphasise once again that this judgement will have no effect on private persons."  Cervelo:  "We agree with Canyon on one thing, which is that this case will have no effect on consumers."

In fact, if these companies spend their time and effort fighting over patents that one of them filed over minor tweaks in bicycle frame design, then they will not spend their time or money making better bicycles. The companies will be distracted.  The lawyers will make a little money off it.  Consumers (and riders -- those who got booted when Garmin and Cervelo teams merged) will pay the bill.


My vote -- let's take this EPO out of cycling. There is no Canyon frame in my future.


P.S. The EPO decision is not yet on their website, but should be within the next few weeks.

2 comments:

Manfred von Holstein said...

I'm not planning to buy a Cervelo either!

However, I made that decision a long time ago, and would be careful to pass judgement on this case, especially if I was a lawyer. All we know is that Canyon thought Cervelo infringed some of their patents, seems angry and is suing. And as so often in such cases the facts seem far less clear-cut. The world is full of patent suits among highly reputable companies. Who is right is usually impossible to tell from the outside, and often even from the inside.

David L. said...

Canyon v. Cervelo -- a settlement, some kind of face-saving cross license, no money paid, no admissions of guilt or declarations of innocence.

http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/canyon-and-cervelo-settle-legal-battle-28941