Trent West Settles Tungsten Carbide Patent Suit with Stuller and Quality Gold

Trent West, owner of nine patents related to the concept and manufacture of Tungsten Carbide rings in the United States, has come to a settlement agreement with Stuller Inc. and Quality Gold.


As part of the settlement agreement, Stuller has obtained a license to sell Tungsten Carbide rings to its customer base of independent retailers throughout the United States. With this license, Stuller joins Frederick Goldman Inc., Benchmark, Jewelry Innovations and Fable Jewelry Company as the only legally authorized sellers of Tungsten Carbide rings protected by West’s nine patents. Quality Gold of Fairfield, Ohio, has agreed to exit this business and will not sell Tungsten Carbide rings after March 7, 2013.

“We are pleased to have settled this case with Stuller and Quality Gold. We believe the final agreement was fair to all parties involved,” stated Edward King, the attorney representing Trent West. “This agreement is yet another major development in recognizing the validity of Trent West’s patents and his ability to enforce the rights protected by his patents.”

A number of settlements have been reached with both manufacturers and retailers of Tungsten Carbide rings. West will continue to enforce his patents and exercise his rights against other manufacturers and retailers infringing on patent numbers: 6,062,045, 6,553,667, 6,990,736, 6,928,734, 6,993,842, 7,032,314, 7,076,972, 7,761,996 and 8,061,033.

 

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U.S. Patent 2,883,571 Elmer Fridrich and Emmett Wiley's Tungsten Halogen Lamp

This patent, granted on 21 April 1959, is for the tungsten halogen lamp. The lamp in figure 1 (at top) shows what has become the typical configuration for these lamps. Figure 2, however, shows a low-voltage configuration that is less familiar. The low-voltage design played a role in a little known project in the early 1970s. 

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American National Carbide Announces the Launch of its Synergy™ Line of Carbide Inserts for High-Temp Alloys

Since 1970 American National Carbide (ANC) has been a leading manufacturer of quality tungsten carbide products, delivering carbide value to the metalworking, oil and gas, and wood processing industries. Always committed to innovation, ANC delivers again with its new Synergy™ line of indexable carbide turning inserts. Synergy’s state of the art carbide substrate, enhanced by the latest nano coating technology, is engineered to perform at the elevated temperatures that are common when machining superalloys. Synergy’s innovative design and proprietary post-coating treatment ensure optimal chip control while reducing cutting forces. From roughing to finishing, Synergy™ offers a total high temperature solution:

Functional 100° roughing corner for enhanced productivity

Coolant flow channel for efficient temperature regulation

Positive ground land to reduce cutting forces

Multiple obstructions for optimal chip control

Helical land angle to resist DOC notching

Mechanical post-treatment to reduce friction

Post-coating surface grind for maximum stability

Wide chip breaking range

SG style for General Purpose

SF Style for Finishing

SR Style for Roughing

“High-temperature alloys have finally met their match. Merging the latest technology in engineering, metallurgy, coating, and post-treatment, we’ve created Synergy™ - a line of advanced indexable carbide inserts for the toughest challenges...”

ANC prides itself in its flexibility to work closely with customers to design and manufacture carbide products for virtually any application. The current launch of Synergy™ carbide inserts attests to the level of innovation that can occur when a synergetic relationship exists between a manufacturer and its customers. As a vertically integrated manufacturer, ANC produces its raw materials and press tooling in house. In addition to its 50 standard carbide grades, ANC can formulate new grades to exact specifications. ANC’s tooling design and production capabilities allow the manufacturer to create complex geometries without issue. ANC utilizes ISO-compliant metallurgical testing on all of its raw materials, grade powders and sintered products in order to ensure conformity with critical specifications.

ANC has serviced the metalworking industry worldwide for more than forty years through the manufacture of tungsten carbide indexable inserts for turning, boring, milling, parting, threading, and grooving applications. ANC has a network of sales representatives strategically positioned to provide service globally, and its highly-trained in house sales and technical support teams assist customers with any questions they may have regarding Synergy™ or any other product or service. ANC has a proud history of excellent customer service and support, and this dedication to customers’ needs continues to be a company trademark, as ANC invites new challenges to innovate the quality of its products and services.

 

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ITC Takes up Tungsten Patent Dispute

LSI and Agere are merged business partners who jointly own a patent on tungsten-metallised semiconductor circuits. They allege that the named respondents have participated in the importation of copied tungsten-metallised semiconductors into the US, which violates section 337 of the 1930 Tariff Act.

Among those named are Taiwanese firms ProMOS Technologies and Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation, plus Japan's Elpida Memory, Inc. The patent in question – US 5,227,335 – relates to a method of treating semiconductors common to miniature electronic devices, in order to improve their efficiency. In their complaint, LSI and Agere have requested the ITC to serve cease-and-desist notices to the 18 firms, prohibiting the 'importation, sale, offer for sale, advertising, or the soliciting of sale' of the relevant circuits.

LSI and Agere's case highlights the growing importance of the ITC to the US patent landscape. An independent, quasi-judicial body set up to target trade injury to the US, the commission has established itself as a powerful, alternative means of tackling infringement.

While it is incumbent on Federal District Courts to satisfy higher statutory requirements – based on their personal jurisdictions over alleged infringers – the ITC has national, in rem jurisdiction over all products imported to the US. This jurisdiction over objects means that the ITC's statutory requirements are satisfied by the very presence of infringing products on US soil. If the ITC determines the presence of such products, it is authorised to block them.

Neither LSI, Agere nor their respondents have commented on the case so far.

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Trent West, Tungsten Rings and US Patent Law

If you have a tungsten carbide ring, you may own stolen goods. This is not to say you didn’t pay the asking price, but, there is a real possibility that whoever sold the ring didn’t pay dues to Trent West. There is an even greater chance that whoever made the ring did so using West’s designs.

Mr. West holds nine patents for tungsten carbide rings and his lawyer, Edward King of King & Kelleher, LLP7, says there’s another in the works that could be issued any day now.

It may seem shocking that someone could patent an idea as ancient and common as a ring. Mr. West did so because he invented a method of converting one of the hardest metals into shiny bands of jewelry, something he insisted had never been done.

“There were absolutely no tungsten carbide rings before I made them,” he declared, “unless it was something made for an industrial purpose.”

The idea was born when West, already a jeweler, saw a watch made of tungsten carbide. He identified an opportunity in the market and acted on it. West trademarked8 two brands, TREW TUNGSTEN® and PERMANENTLY POLISHED® and was very successful in selling his rings. But these days, instead of being busy with production and expansion, he is largely focused on lawsuits against those who infringe upon his patents.

King said there are other methods of making this jewelry (besides those developed by West), but they’re expensive. Trent patented the only commercially viable way of making tungsten carbide rings.

Given that fact, West and his lawyer believe that everything currently on the market infringes one or more of West’s ring patents, which cover technical details spanning from tungsten carbide content to the insertion of stones and softer metals.

Over the last decade, tungsten carbide rings have grown increasingly popular and are now estimated to represent over 20 percent of the wedding band market. High prices for precious metals and a weak global economy could promote further growth. Yet, the benefits of being the inventor and patent holder have dwindled.

Consumers can find an array of tungsten carbide rings from a wide range of sources. According to Mr. West and details outlined in his lawsuits, most are are either acting illegally or unethically. Companies attempt to get around the legal protection of the West patents in numerous ways. The lawsuit against JCPenney9, a major US retailer, highlights one.

It is basically illegal to make, sell, offer for sale or import products covered by West’s patents. However, JCPenney eluded liability for their infringement using a patent loophole that requires an importer be held liable before taking legal action against a retailer.

JCPenney was not directly importing the tungsten carbide rings sold in its stores. Therefore, by selling jewelry known to be patented, JCPenney is technically acting unethically as opposed to violating the law.

Though West sued the wrong party, the case exposed JCPenny’s supplier, C & C Jewelry Manufacturing, against whom a lawsuit is now pending.

Mr. West has filed over a dozen lawsuits including some against well known companies such as Target and Helzberg Diamonds.

With the exception of JCPenney those cases have resulted in the companies either taking licenses or they have gone out of business King said.

Frederick Goldman and Jewelry Innovations10 are examples of companies granted licenses, which involve paying royalties to West.

Another means of attempting to dodge the West ring patents is by altering details such as tungsten carbide content in a given piece of jewelry.

West has a patent that specifies protection for rings at least 50 percent but not exceeding 85 percent tungsten carbide. He has another that protects rings that are predominantly tungsten carbide.

If someone wants to make a ring with 30 percent tungsten carbide content, they can raise an argument as to whether they are committing patent infringement, Mr. King explained.

Retailers and importers weren’t able to slight West on their own. He blames the Chinese for running him out of business.

West spent three years and a lot of money developing, patenting, and bringing his rings to market. He opened a production facility where he says he had 17 full-time employees. Then, around 2003-04, the copying started.

West began seeing products made by Chinese copy cats. Then, by around 2005, the Chinese opened factories and started flooding the market with cheap patent infringing rings.

“I had to close my factory and let my employees go,” he said. “The [tungsten carbide ring] market has shifted to a commodity. I cannot survive in a commodity.”

“The Chinese had the advantages of cheaper raw materials and cheaper labor, he explained. “They could produce a finished ring for what I was paying for a raw blank.”

Most consumers have likely never heard of Trent West and most probably never will. Nearly all the tungsten carbide rings currently on the market come from China.  But, West continues to fight for his dues. By way of his lawsuits, he aims to create an environment where he can obtains royalties from select licensed sellers of tungsten carbide rings.

 

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