Weagle Sues Trek Over ABP Suspension Design

Split Pivot, founded by Dave Weagle, won the rights to the US split pivot suspension patent in 2010. He originally applied for the patent on August 25th, 2006. The suspension platform is designed to  isolate braking forces by using a rear pivot that rotates around the wheel’s axle concentrically.

Weagle asserts that in February of 2007 he contacted Trek about a potential collaboration. A non-disclosure agreement was signed and designs and information regarding the suspensions performance features were subsequently shared.

On April 16, 2007, more than one month after receiving the Split Pivot PowerPoint presentation from Weagle, Trek filed a patent application for an eerily similar concentric pivot suspension design which is now marketed as ABP, or Active Braking Pivot.

Weagles lawsuit alleges that Trek has violated two of his patents and is requesting an amount sufficient to compensate for Treks infringement, at the very least a reasonable royalty, and to be compensated for Split Pivot attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs incurred in this action.

The first Trek bikes featuring ABP where launched in 2007. Is it conceivable that Trek was able to rip Weagle of and launch a line of new bikes in mere months, or is this simply a case of two teams developing a system separately but at similar times? As Trek has pointed out, a similar design was utilized by Crestone Peak Super Active Suspension in 1994.

You can find all of the relevant patents here. Let us know what you think in the comments…

 

Comments

mike - 09/11/12 - 4:06pm

i was wondering how this would pan out with the Gary fisher Trek Merger!
Also has anyone noticed the Santacruz Tallboy Rear pivot ?? almost the same!!

Quickie - 09/11/12 - 4:13pm

“while the concentric pivot is the most noticeable feature of both designs, in itself the pivot is not even patentable”

I’m no engineer, but this doesn’t look good for DW. The designs seem to differ with the common bond being the axle as the rear pivot. If they offered to settle for a box of Twinkies I would accept. the deal.

Topmounter - 09/11/12 - 4:27pm

If Trek patented something “eerily similar”, then this lawsuit is probably more of a defensive move to protect both himself and the companies that have licensed his design. If Trek made the first move (and it only becomes more likely as they gain traction in the market), then Trek legal team would have an injunction slapped on them in a heart beat and they’d be stuck in the courts for years.

CJ - 09/11/12 - 4:28pm

Quickie-If the concentric pivot is not patentable then why have both companies been awarded patents?. There is more to it than that. It will be won by Weagle based on demonstrable dates of communication and the fact that Trek signed a ND and then filed shortly thereafter. Trek stole the idea or was late on the filing while working on similar ideas. Weagle wins because he filed first. Trek delayed his patent by muddying the waters with the old non patented version from BITD.
I hope Dave wins. I hate comanies that rip off smart independant guys. There are not that many really viable designs out there and Dave has 2 of them.

Topmounter - 09/11/12 - 4:30pm

Why? Because the way the patent system works right now (and why it is horribly broken) is that the patent office issues the patent and leaves it to the courts to determine whether it holds up or not.

Quickie - 09/11/12 - 4:40pm

CJ – That is a quote from the linked article, so it isn’t my opinion, its the authors.

I am guessing the patent entails the designs in their entirety (including all the engineering junk I can’t claim to understand). Per the article, as a stand alone you can’t just patent the concentric pivot. Using some logic the patent office granted two separate patents indicating there is a discernible difference once you get past the concentric pivot.

As a defense Trek should use their often cracked chainstays as a design difference.

GH - 09/11/12 - 4:46pm

What gets me is that the reason presented for suing in these instances is to protect the investment of time and money developing the product, tech, or material. Yet there has been questionable patents awarded for designs that have already existed prior. I take nothing from Dave’s efforts within the bike industry. You would have to work really hard to cause the stink he does every now and then. But I also have no doubt he’s riding coattails of the hard work done by others as well. He’s already done what he’s accusing Trek of doing. It happened with the DW link bikes as well. BALFA 2Step DH(HD)? This isn’t Treks only suspension patent either. Both are making arguments that make them look like greedy, monopolous dick taters. I’m pretty sure Weagles patents even protect him from someone building a single bike for study. Restricting or stifling anyone in the pursuit of innovation is wrong.

Gregoir

RC - 09/11/12 - 5:05pm

I’m just surprised it took so long for Dave to file.

Inspector Gadget - 09/11/12 - 5:09pm

Mike – There is no “rear pivot” on the Santa Cruz Tallboy, it’s a floating rear triangle VPP design.

CJ - 09/11/12 - 5:12pm

GH- You obviously have never pursued an innovative design of your own and experienced being intellectually ripped off. If you look at the liist of names on the patent as reference materials you will see Castellano,Leitner,Lawwill,etc. I have spoken to most of them and they will fill your day with stories and bitter anecdotes of how others have stolen their intellectual property.It comes down to $$$$ to defend your patent which determines its worth at the end of the day. Kudos for Dave for fighting back. Most of us just move on to new things where there is less large and well funded competition to steal your ideas.

This suit revolves around timing and suspicious behavior on Treks part, not the mechanics of the patent. The second I saw a Trek ABP bike I asked myself why it doesn’t say DW on the chainstay? Now I see why.

Steve M - 09/11/12 - 5:14pm

Nightmare- DW is in for a bald head and blood in his morning stool sample trying to sue the big boy. His attorney most likely asked for a big retainer and is in for a nasty long fight. Every hour is another fortune. In the end the attorneys win.

The patent office is granting extremely dubious claims and this is one of them.

tae - 09/11/12 - 5:19pm

I believe the difference between ABP and Split-Pivot is the existence of a floating shock. Someone please correct me if there’s more to it than that.

Juanito - 09/11/12 - 5:29pm

I’m pretty ignorant, but I do remember a time when Dave & Trek were going to let their respective designs co-mingle in the market place. I bet once the brands licensing DW’s design started heading over the border, Trek decided to try to play with those companies licensing it. The best defense can be a good offense, legally speaking, and DW going on the offense is likely more of a defense for the companies that licenesed his design from being attacked by Trek. The verdict there could blanket cover any company licensing DW’s Split Pivot from worry of legal action on the part of Trek, and in turn keep a few small players receptive to licensing his work for US consumption. Hulllllo Devinci & Morewood!

GH - 09/11/12 - 5:45pm

CJ
I didn’t know you knew me that well. So you seem to know what I do for work? Are you teh one watching me in the cameras?
My gripe is with how patents are issued in the US and the arguments made for and against. Anyone trying to patent a suspension bike SHOULD be referencing Mert Lawill at the very least. This isn’t new stuff, like plenty of the ideas being patented in the bike industry. Weagle works hard, I’m sure, however, so did the others before him and now HE’s suing because “he’s getting ripped off”. Neither patent is unique or innovative based on what was happening at the time in suspension design, especially since the pivot location isn’t a driving factor. Anyone worth their salt would be using the same design principals utilized such as instant center migration and the relation between it and the drive/ braking forces. This is basic stuff like turning the computer ON. Where is Tony Ellsworth in this whole mix?

Gregoir

Charlie B. - 09/11/12 - 5:46pm

Call me naive, but it seems to me the time to file this suit was the day Mr.Weagle first heard of the TREK ABP design, not nearly six years down the line. As mentioned by others, both designs show the influence of earlier designs. I think it might be a tough one to win, which is probably why TREK didn’t file suit the other way.
@ tae – the floating shock, or Full Floater as TREK refer to it, is not part of the ABP – the ABP is also seen on bikes with fixed shock mounts such as the Superfly 100. I believe that idea was first used on Yamaha dirt bikes, and variations are used by other bike companies.

Jay - 09/11/12 - 6:18pm

Do patents in the US arrive with the cereal box?

The Idea of patenting a concentric pivot about the axle is just crazy. Patenting the function of a system is what should be done, not how it gets there. A quick skim read of the patent and it looks like its trying to cover every conceivable suspension system that could use a concentric pivot about the axle regardless of the desired functionality.

Whats next, automotive companies suing bike companies for infringing on there IP, as truthfully all this was done 40 years ago on other vehicles, now the application has just been twisted.

CJ - 09/11/12 - 6:21pm

CharlieB- Full Floater was a licensed design by a patent holder I do not recall and Suzuki. It worked extremely well. Suzuki dropped it to stop paying licensing fees and also due to a desire to drop some weight from their chassis Their systems have never worked as well as those original Full Floaters

Mindless - 09/11/12 - 6:55pm

I have always disliked Mr. Weagle for the excessive amount of hype.

His suspension designs are good, but nothing special.

My personal preference is FSR – but of course from European manufacturers. Screw Specialized.

Erik - 09/11/12 - 6:58pm

The main part of the patent Trek took was the concentric pivot. It’s the way the chain and seatstay connect with the axle going through it. No doubt they copied the idea just like Samsung copied Apple. You have to value original engineering in the court. Dave deserves to be compensated. Trek is real focus back before ABP was road biking. They wanted to catch up in mountain biking and stole their way back into the marketplace.

Mr Bojangles - 09/11/12 - 7:40pm

this only means one thing. Higher costs to the consumers.

Sevo - 09/11/12 - 8:52pm

FYI people the delay probably came with the fact to defend a patent you need about $250k in the bank….to start. It’s not cheap and he’s small in the grand scheme of it all.

Spencer - 09/11/12 - 9:14pm

DW is a self-aggrandizing bozo.

greg - 09/11/12 - 11:27pm

dw is more in tune with the subtleties involved in bicycle suspension dynamics than anyone else ive not met. the biggest thing about his dw-link bikes is the tunability between different models.
i have a feeling he’s got the lawsuit in the bank or he would not pursue it. personally, i think the split pivot accomplishes almost nothing, the patent office is the real problem, they act like theyre getting kickbacks from law firms to confuse everything. it is THEIR responsibility to research and grant/deny patents, not the court’s. the court is the second line of defense.
ellsworth- ha! that guy definitely shouldnt have been awarded a cookie, much less a patent!

Ron G. - 09/12/12 - 12:02am

Trek will settle for a big pile of money. This is by far the best suspension design they have ever had. Without it, they can’t compete with Specialized.

Radiant Ultralord - 09/12/12 - 4:22am

Trek won’t settle. There is prior art.

Specialized’s patents are gonna expire within the next couple of years anyway.

Warp - 09/12/12 - 4:37am

@Tae @ Charlie B. … You’re right that patents for floating shock existed. However, its use along with the concentric pivot is covered by the patent granted to DW in 2011 and filed in August-2007. Trek’s was granted in 2010 and filed in April-2007.

So while the concentric pivot patent from DW predates Trek’s, the use of it with a floating shock was filed before by Trek. As of today, both have valid patents for the same thing.

DW’s second patent covers about any linkages you could think about (even one very similar to Specialized Demo but with a Split Pivot).

If I understand correctly, Trek’s patent is for the ABP with a floater specifically.
Dave’s patents are for suspension systems (for ANY vehicle, particularly human powered) using a concentric pivot at the wheel.

Vincent - 09/12/12 - 6:31am

I’m now waiting for Obea to be involved in this mess..
They use a similar design, without paying royalties to DW, whereas BH, another spanish compagny, does !

Schlim - 09/12/12 - 10:35am

So if the Trek patent is for the full-floater design combined with the concentric pivot, are the Superfly 100 and Rumblefish outside the scope of the patent? They have the shock fixed to the top tube.

Dezender - 09/12/12 - 10:56am

It will be hard to ever know the complete truth, but it does seem like the same idea was independently developed at approximately the same time. DW should have enough income to live on without trying to sue, but I guess this is why lawyers love America. Tons of brands in Europe use FSR without royalties and the big S still survives… DW can license his “link” and pivot while Trek ABP kicks ass due to Jose Gonzales, Shandro, TWR, and the cash they put into R & D. I wouldn’t have bought a Trek MTB ten years ago, but I ride one now and it is stacks up to any bike on the market. DW is helpful with design for niche brands and kicked down with Iron Horse, so props for that too… he is a smart guy, while Trek has put together a great team on the MTB side (and their road bikes aren’t terrible either ;-)

DeeEight - 09/12/12 - 12:25pm

Ok first off, neither should have been awarded patents… the US patent system, is supposed to apply a test of obviousness to applications, which means, if the idea would be obvious to anyone with knowledge of the field that the applied for invention belongs to, then its valid for patent protection. But the US patent office is famous now for allowing almost anything, even obvious things, to be patented. This is because the majority of the patent office’s annual budget comes from the fees they charge. They have a vested interest to approve practically everything because it affects their bottom line. As an example… apple’s patents for square icons with rounded corners on its displays, or their rectangular phone/tablet cases with round corners. I’m sorry… but my Nokia cell phone of a DECADE ago, long before Apple ever thought to make a cell phone, was a rectangular handset with rounded corners. For that matter, my Samsung U740 dual-flip phone, which entered the market in 2007, when Apple was first releasing their first iPhones… its a rectangular case with rounded corners, and the display icons, many of them have rounded corners too.

As to the mentioned Full Floater patent, that was Don Richardson owner of Ricor Shocks, who invented it and patented it, and beat suzuki in a patent infringement suit. Don incidently also invented and patented INERTIA VALVE shocks first… and just as DW tried collaborating with Trek on split-pivot, Don was in talks with specialized for them to license his patent on inertia valves… then they turned around and with some guy from Fox, basically filed patents of their own, without citing the known prior art in their application. Its only a matter of time before Don sues specialized blind.

You can read the final outcome of the Richardson vs Suzuki court saga here…

http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/F2/868/1226/17438/

satisFACTORYrider - 09/12/12 - 12:49pm

i hear it’s much easier to ask for forgivene$$ than permi$$ion. sometimes..

CJ - 09/12/12 - 1:12pm

D8- Good info from an obvious insider.
Suzuki has always been on my black list for that and what they did to Brad BITD.

Interesting that the Inertia valve has not found more widespread use in MTB’s it seems like a natural to me even an electronic version.

Radiant Ultralord - 09/12/12 - 5:39pm

Inertia valves by their nature hurt overall bump sensitivity.

Oderus - 09/13/12 - 11:10am

Trek’s patent if I’m not mistaken involves the ABP pivot as well as the full floater linkage at the shock. It’s not just the one pivot. It’s the entire system. There are two seperate patents awarded. DW will be in court for a long time trying to overcome this. In other news……….Trek buys DW and forces him to go the way of Gary Klein and Gary Fisher. At least his name isn’t Gary.

dough - 09/14/12 - 12:31pm

Instead of assuming why don’t you guys read the 23 claims in Trek’s patent and the 64 claims in DW’s patent and find out exactly what it patented?

In the end, its the claims that matter. Not anything else in the patent document.

If I had a few hours to read both and digest the content I can come back and tell you exactly what is going on. Unfortunately I do not have that time right now.

In today’s age, with a first to file basis, DW would win outright. Back when these were filed the US had a ‘first to invent’ policy which makes things a bit more difficult in the courts to back up. For DW to win the legal dispute I sure hope he has documentation showing the timeline that he came up with the design before Trek did and filed a patent application before Trek did. That is all assuming the claims in both patents refer to the same funcationality of the design.

As an Engineer myself, the hardest part is going back and forth with the damn lawyers on the verbage. Legal speak is nonsense to the technical speak of an Engineer. I spend more time doing that then coming up with innovative and novel designs.

Bean - 09/14/12 - 10:23pm

One issue which likely forced Dave Weagle to take legal action is that clients of his split pivot as well as potential clients are concerned they could be sued by Trek on patent infringement. While several companies currently license the split pivot, they may not be entirely comfortable with the possibility of a legal nightmare. It is understandable if potential clients are holding off purchasing the split pivot license due to legal advice on this matter.

john - 05/22/13 - 4:14pm

III… designed all, but the nerdy ending stuff…I was the seed. The Grandfather. Of ABP or “split”. Of the full-floater, swingarm. of the D.R.C.V. shock. Of the evo link. Of the dropped top tube.

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