At any given time, there is a good chance that at least one or two companies in the industry are undergoing some type of patent litigation. A seemingly natural part of business in the industry, recently two noteworthy cases have come across our desk. The first involves an ongoing dispute between Stan’s NoTubes and Specialized Bicycle Components. After Specialized released rim designs that Stan’s felt infringed on their U.S. Patent 7,334,846, Stan’s brought suit against Specialized, eventually winning a judgement from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. The latest installment invovled the United States Court of Appeals in the Federal Ciruit on February 4, 2016, which affirmed the PTAB decision. Stan’s currently holds four different patents related to their ZTR product line with Bead Socket Technology. Based on the latest ruling, it seems Specialized will have to pay compensation to Stan’s NoTubes.
In an even bigger case that’s apparently underway, SRAM looks to be stepping up enforcement of their X-Sync narrow-wide IP…
When SRAM announced they would be licensing their X-Sync chainring technology to other companies, there was a line at the end that made us wonder. Amidst a flood of competitors offering single chainrings with their own chain retention properties, SRAM simply stated that, “SRAM reserves the right to enforce its intellectual property in all matters relating to X-SYNC.” That was back in 2014. Now two years later, it looks like they might be invoking that right. Thanks to an anonymous tip, we were alerted to three different lawsuits from SRAM for patent infringement against Race Face, Praxis Works, and Wolf Tooth Components. All three cases seem to stem from infringement on SRAM’s U.S. Patent #9,182,027 as well as potentially patent #9,062,758.
The concept of a narrow-wide chainring itself doesn’t seem to be patent-able due to the concept dating back to at least a patent from 1979 from the Gehl Company. However, what is apparently subject to patent is just how the teeth are designed and their arrangement on the chainring – which is what seems to be the focus here. When reached for comment, Race Face, Praxis Works, and WTC all stated that they could not comment on pending litigation. We also reached out to SRAM for comment but have not heard back. More as we get it.