1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Patent & Legal issues

Discussion in 'Patent & Legal Discussion' started by Turbo, Sep 16, 2014.

Welcome to Algae Scrubbing Join our community today
  1. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    I added this section because these types of issues affect everyone interested in Algae Scrubbers.

    Algae Scrubbers are a great tool for aquarium use. I think most can agree on this. Bryan Farrish, better known as Santa Monica, stated at one point that he would never patent anything. That was before he came up with the Upflow idea.

    Although many have pointed out that his idea for the UAS might not really have been totally 100% original (I'll have to dig up the thread I'm thinking of) it does appear that he's on track for approval of an international patent for several of his concepts.

    This has certain obvious implications for anyone who is thinking about making these. And it is for this reason that it created this section. This site is for discussion of Algae Scrubbers, no matter what type, and everything about them.

    At this point, I could care less about the HOG and UAS patents. I have reservations about their effectiveness, but they do serve a purpose in the way that they allow people who cannot run a waterfall scrubber to still be able to use an Algae Scrubber, and that is always a good thing.

    My beef is with the Appendages application. Mainly with his claim that a textured surface constitutes an Appendage. This is most obviously his way to claim 'novelty' (the term used in patent language to identify uniqueness of a concept) with respect to his 'Green Grabber' surfaces. For reference, Green Grabber is small quartz rock. Same thing as pool filter sand, just bigger.

    A user on his site posted an example of a plastic canvas screen that he had heated up and then pressed aragonite sand on it. This was posted on his site, and the date of the post pre-dates any of his priority data that was submitted for his Appendages PCT application. While I'm not a legal or patent expert, it seems to me that such examples would constitute Prior Art.

    There are probably more such examples. The point is, no one is probably allowed to point this out on his site. Different story on this site. I have a pretty strong belief in not deleting anything, unless it's spam. I have always felt that honesty is the best policy, and let the chips fall where they may.

    Being informed is the only way to make a true decision.

    Off my soapbox now...
  2. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    Back on my soapbox. Guess who coined the term "Up-flow"? Yeah, that's right

    Admittedly, I don't include bubbles, and this is very early on in my learning of Algae Scrubbers. Point is, the Up-Flow ATS term, predates the patent and preliminaries (and might invalidate his own trademark/registration)

    Thread on his own site, still active - one of the few threads of mine that he didn't delete when he banned me

    Up-Flow ATS

    ZIP file of HTML attached
    Screenshots of thread attached

    Now some might look at this thread and say it's a hit piece on SM and that I feel threatened. Not even close. I could care less what he manufactures and sells.

    What I can't let slide is him claiming novelty for an idea/concept which is at best barely arguable. This one, he got the patent on actually. Goes to show that the patent search guys didn't even bother to look at his own forum for possibilities. Maybe this is just out of the scope of work for the guys that review patent applications - they don't google the idea to see if it's public domain.

    So what is left to do? Do I have to hire an attorney to contact the USPTO and refute the "appendages" application, at least, the "aggregate" section of it, which is the crux of the Green Grabber concept? If you look closely, he has claimed that a textured surface is his idea.

    What I'm referring to is this patent application:

    Santa Monica Appendages - WIPO (PCT - International)

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 29, 2015
  3. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    Historically speaking, the precursor to SM coming out with a new patent application has been him dropping hints. I used to think this was some kind or marketing tactic that he was attempting - trying to get some kind of hype going - and that may be part of it, but why not just come out and say what you're coming out with?

    I opted not to patent anything I came up with. But I had my reasons. I spoke with several people who have patents and went through the whole process, and I spoke with attorneys about what it takes to defend a patent. Basically, it's all a bunch of bullsh-t unless you want to pat yourself on the back, or unless you have a multi-million dollar company willing to pick up the bill and sue someone for infringement. Even then, if the other party has better paid lawyers (more $$$$$$) chances are, even if they are on the apparent losing side of the battle, they will still win.

    You can get a lot out of trade dress protection, registrations, design patents (cheap), etc. They can get you almost just as much protection for a fraction of the price.

    Also, there's the international patent issue. Internationally, the second you blab your idea to someone else and/or post it online, you can't patent it. This is likely the main reason why SM is tight lipped about things - because he goes to WIPO first. I'm pretty sure his UAS was so tightly held of a secret that he didn't let anyone in his office know what it was he was working on.

    Thing is, the aquarium industry just isn't that big. Not as big as people in the hobby/industry seem to think it is. So spending $50-$100k on multiple patent applications before a product hits the market (and that is not an unreasonable figure for 5+ international applications) is not a path that I cared to go down. It just didn't seem to make sense.

    I considered waiting until my product was done and ready to hit the market, but actually, part of the protection issue has to do with recognization of a design or product. Specifically, several concepts that I have come up with, in order to be generally recognized as my design, need to be in the public domain for about a year before they can be granted certain protections. So that's kind of the opposite of what you would want to do with an idea vs the patent process. So that's why I posted up 3D CAD renderings of my design the moment I was comfortable enough that it was close to the final design. Things like the SquarePipe, the removable growth chamber and base (which is clearly novel, but probably falls under a "drain system" which you cannot patent), or the Drain Valve system I'm working on (combination of existing concepts), or even the False Bottom. At least one of these, I was told, had potential for patentability. But me being a skeptic, the first thing I think of is exactly how full of BS the patent process is, and I say, no thanks.

    (I'm thinking of following every name with "technology" lol - some will understand that)

    So back to the hint dropping, the reason I bring this up is because of this.

    Waterfall: version 2

    Really. Unchanged? Let me think of a few major improvements that I have made: false bottom (credit goes to Chris @ReefKeeper64 for the idea), light & spray blockers (just an expansion of the garbage bag idea really), 2 stage screen roughing technique, and then most recently point to Paul B's mortar screen method, and a lot of real-world customer feedback related to LED fixtures has led to my current board design (many users contributed to this, particularly @Kerry)
    Why this first? Patent application is already in the works, that's why.

    Why this?
    So we are expected to wait several years for new ideas and improvements? What started out as great ideas to share for the good of everyone is now clearly focused on sharing great ideas once the patent applications are in. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I'm just calling it as I see it, that's all.

    Just let it be known that I'm fine with claiming novelty on things that are truly novel. I'm not ok with stretching that to try and cover things that aren't.
  4. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    Mortar Screen Method can be seen here. And guess what? It's low cost.

    Screen & Fasteners
  5. Matt Berry

    Matt Berry Active Member Trusted Member

    I really feel like SM is trying to take control of the scrubber market. I wouldn't be surprised if he went after patents for the waterfall scrubbers as well. I do wonder what he has up his sleeve, but with all the people that have, and still are contributing to scrubbers (and have posted it all publicly), I can't see him coming up with anything game changing.

    So I'm not too worried about what he's planning, unless he's attempting to corner the waterfall market by busting out the patents. If that happens, I think we need to act. His first 'improvement' - green grabber screens, means diddly squat. His appendages patent though, if it applies to any textured surface, is a real cause for concern. Surely that covers every known effective algae scrubber screen.

    SM...soon to be the algae scrubber overlord?
  6. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    ^this is spot on
  7. Rumpy Pumpy

    Rumpy Pumpy Member Trusted Member

    Hi all. Not in the hobby at present so not been active here, but I drifted by out of interest and spotted this.

    I think it was actually me that first posted the textured surface idea on his site a few years back and the other guy who baked sand onto a plastic screen got it from there.

    I don't wish to lay claim to any financial rights over it but if anyone wanted to challenge his patent based on this I'd be happy to cooperate.
  8. Rumpy Pumpy

    Rumpy Pumpy Member Trusted Member

  9. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

  10. Turbo

    Turbo Does not really look like Johnny Carson Staff Member Site Owner Multiple Units! Customer

    I just reviewed the claims he has in the US application and he dropped many of them - including this one (#12)

    "the macroalgal attachment apparatus...wherein the appendages have a rough texture to enable better macroalgal attachment"

    He also dropped his claim to "ribbons".

    What is left of the "appendages" patent application seems like it's really focused on the SURF type unit. There might be a few other ones in there like the screens you can comb-harvest but meh. I think that's a loser too.
    Matt Berry likes this.

Share This Page