Black Diamond, never a company to take potential patent infringement lightly, filed a lawsuit in the Utah District Court on March 22, 2004, alleging that Trango's new MaxCam, debuted at Winter Market 2004, infringed on BD's patent 4,643,377, more commonly known as the Camalot patent.
That lawsuit put the brakes on Trango's plans to begin shipping the MaxCam this year. After a flurry of legal briefs, the two sides met for an all-day arbitration meeting and on May 21, reached an agreement that stipulates Trango will pay Black Diamond a licensing fee for the rights to produce the MaxCam. In addition, Trango agreed to delay production of the Max -- which includes distributing press releases, undertaking advertising, showing the prototype, showing the product, etc. -- until January 1, 2005. As part of the agreement, Trango did not admit to any patent infringement.
Peter Metcalf, Black Diamond's CEO told SNEWSÂ® that the company is in no way singling out Trango. In fact, he sent a letter to all "major cam players" reminding them that the Camalot patent was still in effect and would be defended.
In the letter, Metcalf stated, "I am sending this letter as a courtesy to underscore that Black Diamond will rigorously enforce the Camalot patent until its expiration in the U.S. in September 2005 and in Europe approximately a year later. I know that many companies have developed facsimiles or variations on the Camalot and are anxious to proceed to market with them."
Metcalf goes on to warn that litigation is "a costly and time consuming business" and that "any company seeking an early introduction while the Camalot patent remains in force would realize that the consequences undermine any perceived benefits."
SNEWSÂ® View: Patent law is very clear on the subject of infringement, defining potential infringements for which damages may be sought as any offer for sale, which includes discussion and reviews in the media, as well as displays of the product and circulation of promotional material at tradeshows. There is little gray area there. BD did not waste any time pulling the trigger on Trango's new MaxCam design, and we're sure the gun is loaded and ready to fire again if BD feels the need. You can be sure that once the patent does expire over here though, there will be a flood of designs, all variations on the twin axle cam known as the Camalot. Â