The rumor of legal action by Ultimate Telemark Bindings against Voile
and Rottefella hit the SNEWSÂ®Â desks early last week. When we began
digging, what we unearthed was not so much a legal action, but a threat
of legal action. First a little history --
Back in 1997, extreme telemark skier Armond Dubuque came up with the
concept for his Ultimate Telemark Binding. What made his binding unique
in his eyes and worthy of a patent (U.S. Patent 6.234.514) was a solid
cable bar -- then a new idea -- with compression spring cartridges --
not a new idea.
Dubuque produced 300 pairs himself, and then went looking for
production assistance. His discussions with several companies about
making the bindings for him, including with Rottefella and Voile,
Then, this year, Rottefella and Voile both introduced revised versions
of existing bindings in their lines. The revised products (Voile's
Classic Cable renamed Hardwire and Rottefella's Chili renamed Chili
Cobra) had the solid cable bars and compression spring cartridges.
With that, Dubuque started threatening legal action. Voile general
manager, Dave Grissom, acknowledges that Dubuque talked of lawsuits and
told SNEWSÂ® , "It made the most sense to us to settle with Armand before
he started any legal action. He's a good guy and this business is too
small to have all sorts of legal action going on."
Despite what has been stated on websites that cater to the telemark and
backcountry enthusiast, Rottefella has not yet been named in a lawsuit
or served with papers. Rottefella international marketing manager
Torbjorn Ragg spoke with his company's technical director, Bernt Otto
Hauglin and emailed SNEWSÂ®Â from Norway on Thanksgiving day.
From Hauglin the following:
use of compression springs and solid cable bars are known from a number
of old German, Austrian, and Swiss patents. All 75 mm cable bindings on
the market are using this technology.
- We are aware of the Dubuque patent U.S. 6.234.514
- We have heard rumors from third parties that Dubuque has filed a lawsuit against Rottefella. We have not received any papers.
- It is our opinion that we do not infringe his patent. This is also confirmed by our U.S. patent attorney.
is my opinion that the Dubuque patent is obtained by misconduct because
Mr. Dubuque failed to inform the examiner of very pertinent prior art
brought to his knowledge by us approximately one year before filing his
SNEWSÂ®Â View: A
tempest in a teapot? You bet. And fairly typical of a very small niche
business where garage inventors go head-to-head with perceived industry
"giants." What is yet to come out in the wash are the answers to the
following questions: Did Dubuque carefully check for prior art? Did
Voile settle too quickly without studying the facts carefully? Did
Rottefella think Dubuque would simply go away and not challenge them?
Stay tuned, as yet another chapter in "As The Telemark World Turns" is
played out to the delight of a very small, but earnest, audience.