Oscar Wilde often gets credit for the phrase “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” though Wilde was merely building upon an aphorism popularized earlier in the 19th century by Charles Caleb Colton. In manufacturing, and especially where patents are involved, imitation can get a little too cozy. It may lead to patent infringement cases.
Presto Geosystems has certainly dealt with some patent infringement disputes over the past 40 years, but that comes with the territory when one is part of inventing an entire group of materials (e.g., geocellular confinement systems).
In geosynthetics, these disputes are typically centered around how their components are put together. The geocell market is supported by numerous international participants, so one of the most significant ways to differentiate between products is how the panels are connected and anchored. The quality invested in these systems is essential to enabling the geocell itself to properly perform the function for which it is designed into a project. It is a matter of safety as well as installation efficiency.
POTENTIAL PATENT INFRINGEMENT OF ATRA® KEY
Presto’s statement on potential patent infringement underscores the gravity of the situation in the marketplace, as it not only might show violations of business law but pose safety threats:
It has come to our attention that some customers have recently come across products intended to compete with our patented ATRA® key connection device for fastening expanded geocell panels. … [We have] aggressively protected that innovation with a portfolio of over 50 active patents around the world. Rest assured that we have already enforced our patents against others with successful results, and we are currently working with our legal team to address copycat versions of our product that infringe upon our ATRA® key patents.
Know too, that while some of these versions may look like our product, they do not function like the ATRA® key. Preliminary testing of several competing products indicates customers may be unknowingly making a very dangerous trade-off: those products may be unreliable and lead to project failure. We therefore strongly encourage anyone considering using, specifying, or distributing competing versions of the ATRA® key to obtain legal advice on the risks that you or your customer may be exposed to, including but not limited to, any legal or project-related risks associated with use of an infringing or unreliable product.
AN EXPANDED VIEW
So, back to Wilde and his statement on imitation. There’s actually another half to his quote: “… that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”
To be sure, there will be other sides to the story represented in any dispute that comes to be. We hope that all issues that arise in this matter are addressed swiftly and that the participants in the market have the proper data and materials to support their designs. One thing we can all agree upon in engineering is the importance of safety.
For more information on Presto’s geocellular technologies, the patented ATRA® key connection device, and related materials and engineering services, visit www.prestogeo.com.