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Alpine Ski Patent Slap Fight: Armada vs. Rossignol vs. DPS vs. The Rest of the Skiing World
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October 26, 2010
9:19 pm
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(This is a long article, most likely of interest only to obsessive alpine skiers, or people interested in the gory details of patent litigation.)

Warnings and Disclaimers!

  • I am not a patent lawyer. My opinions have no legal weight or standing.
  • This article is entirely my opinion, including all pronouncements about the business practices of various ski manufacturers, and all summaries of information contained in patents.
  • I have no financial or other business interest in any company mentioned here.

If you have factual corrections or additional information, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to revise accordingly.

The Situation

It's possible to patent…

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October 26, 2010
10:25 pm
nate
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got some JJs if you want me to measure. also, just want to say this is all BS, armada's being incredibly ridiculous, and i actually don't blame rossi for firing back. power to the big(ger) guy, for once.

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October 27, 2010
12:06 pm
Endre Hals
Guest

Thank you for writing this summary of the situation, patents are (deliberately) hard to read.

Luckily the Armada patent of a tapered tip that starts in (roughly) the same area as the rocker is not a very good solution in practice, (it makes skis unstable) therefore easy to avoid. The Rossi patent though is harder, but easier to prove outdated, since the problems with these patents as i see it is that they don't define the differences between a long tip and a rocker (or am I wrong here?)

Basically you can construct all imaginary shapes between a traditional ski (pre all patents) and the JJ, ARG or S7, and the patents can not tell when a traditional tip becomes a rockered tip or a tapered tip.

Endre Hals

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October 27, 2010
12:07 pm
vitamin i
Guest

I think the Armada ARG effective edge is about 78cm, and DPS Lotus 138 192cm effective edge is about 87cm. Not sure how that data affects whose product infringes on whose patent.

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October 27, 2010
12:07 pm
vitamin i
Guest

Re: Armada's Claim #32: 2007/08 Armada JP vs Julien had a tail which was 10mm higher than its tip, but that model did not have rocker, so I believe that model is not related to this Armada patent. However, the 2008/09 Armada JJ model replaced the previous JP vs Julien model, and I believe this patent indeed covers that JJ model. However, I cannot confirm whether the JJ model has more tail rocker than tip rocker.

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October 27, 2010
12:07 pm
vitamin i
Guest

rossi was the one that tried a tensioning cable during R&D phase, but they discarded the idea and never released such skis to the public. the rossi phantom sc 108 model had that cable during R&D phase, and perhaps a few other rossi models during R&D phase (not sure which other models, if any).

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October 27, 2010
1:26 pm
Powderhound23
Guest

A major claim of this article is that Armada is suing Rossignol.

That's not the case, it's the other way around: Rossi is suing Armada:

http://www.rfcexpress.com/lawsuit.asp?id=65892

In searching the database, Armada does not appear to be suing anyone.

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October 27, 2010
1:29 pm
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Endre: you are correct in that the primary Rossignol patent claim doesn't differentiate between a regular tip and a "rockered" (longer) tip…so it's very likely IMO that prior art will be found. In fact, I may have already found it with the Volkl G4, which by itself would narrow the "no-go" region to 8-12mm of rise.

That is why Rossi added all the dependent claims on various shapes of rocker: so that if the first, broadest claim is invalidated, they can still claim the subsets of rocker shapes defined by the dependent claims, of which there are many.

I agree with you that the Armada patent shape (tip rocker starting at the sidecut transition) isn't the best way to build a ski, and it's better to continue the sidecut some distance up into the tip/tip rocker.

You are correct that the patents, for the most part, don't differentiate between a regular and rockered tip, which is why I wrote the article…because everyone was saying that "Armada has patented tip rocker" or "Rossi has patented tip rocker", which is not true at all.

vitamin i: Thank you for the information, both on effective edge and on the Rossi tensioning cable! I'll update the post accordingly.

Powderhound23: You're right: according to the complaint, Armada sent a cease & desist to Rossignol (as well as to several other ski manufacturers, AFAIK) but did not actually file a lawsuit yet.  I've updated the post to reflect this.

However, since Rossi refused to comply with the terms of the C&D, I'm sure a countersuit is coming presently.

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October 27, 2010
7:27 pm
SEMag
Guest

I think there's another major player in this game: Volant, with the Spatula designed by McConkey (who probably set the precedent on the reverse sidecut, reverse camber ski). Here is an excerpt from "A guide to the Volant Spatula, the world’s greatest powder ski":

"During the summer of 96 at a bar in Las Lenas Argentina while hanging out with some friends I quickly sketched a picture of some fat skis with reverse side cut onto a beer napkin...Then in 1998 the Volant design engineers came out to Squaw Valley...And then the light bulb flashed on. I dug up my old beer napkin and began pondering the concept. I thought about hard snow and soft snow and began comparing the similarities of powder to water. I realized that the effects of riding on powder snow would be very similar to riding on water. Water skis have reverse side cut. So do surf boards. And they both have decamber or rocker...So nothing happened for 2 years. Finally after stewing over it for too long I began talking to the design engineers at Volant about just gong for it and jury rigging a pair or two together in the shop in their spare time. If it wasn’t for the hard work and extra after hours put in by Ryan Carroll and Peter Turner in the Volant factory the first and only four pairs would never have been made in the summer of 2001."

Here is the whole thing: http://www.fuzeqna.com/evogear/consumer/kbdetail.asp?kbid=61

I *think* that the Spatula was the first reverse-reverse ski, and DPS was paying homage to it's shape with the 138. I don't, however, know if Volant had any patents in place...

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October 27, 2010
7:50 pm
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SEMag:

As far as I can tell, the Spatula patent was never granted: the application is available online, but a search of the USPTO database yields no results for any of the inventors in combination with "Ski". I suspect their application may have been abandoned when Volant basically disappeared a few years later.

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October 28, 2010
11:43 am
chrasualBroBomb
Guest

Powderhound23,

Clearly you're not a very careful reader. Nowhere in this article is the claim made that Armada is suing anyone. The article states, correctly, that Armada sent several "cease and desist" letters to small manufacturers and Rossignol. The nature of the letter is essentially, "Pay us royalties for using our patented tech, or we WILL sue for damages up to 3x the amount."

Rossi THEN filed suit as a response to the letter.

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October 28, 2010
11:43 am
David S.
Guest

In Rossi's lawsuit document, available below, they state that it is "at least" the ARVw, not the ARV as you mention above.

http://www.exoticskis.com/ExoticSkis/Industry/Rossignol_ArmadaPatents/Rossignol_v_Aramada_2010Oct_Complaint_Case%20210-cv-01008-CW.pdf

Thanks for putting out this article. Very helpful.

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October 28, 2010
10:06 pm
Powderhound23
Guest

BroBomb,

The author removed the claim after I posted this and it is in the comments below. He did have it saying that Armada was suing Rossignol. Which seems to just shred the credibility of author right away, that he could mistake the entire situation.

I love my S7s, and I paid 150 bucks more than the JJs to get them, because I liked the ski way more.

But it does seem that in looking at patents that Armada applied in August 2006, http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=%22Ar.....da+Skis%22 so maybe they have a claim here. It would only cause greater competition, meaning lower prices for all. Not sure what the concern is here, Line has a patent on twin tip skis, if anyone actually made a true twin tip, they would do the same thing that Armada did.

Armada did not patent rocker, camber, or any of that stuff, just merely a combination of them right? It seems like just a few skis copied them, but I assume primarily the S7, that's why they went after Rossi. Armada has always given credit in press to Shane McConkey for inspiring designs. They just put rocker and made some tweaks and made it way better. Pretty sure the Spatula is patented. Atomic would now own that patent because they purchased Volant.

Maybe there is just not enough info.

We will see when the court case comes, but there is just so much need for clarity here.

I am betting that most objects you own are patented, even the thing you clean your sink with.
Or better yet, that computer you are on? yep, probably patented too.
Maybe the tire tread on your car too. I am pretty sure patents are only enforceable for 7 years anyway.

Patents encourage innovation, not the other way around. People wouldn't innovate if they could just always copy...

Like to know your thoughts. You want better skis or are you happy with the JJs and S7s?

Personally, I would like to see what comes next.

Still don't really get why Rossi is suing Armada over the ARW, but I can only assume that it is a power play by a huge company to crush the small one.

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October 28, 2010
10:30 pm
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February 22, 2010
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Powderhound23: If correcting the article in response to your comment 'shreds my credibility' with you, what do you suggest I do instead?

I will continue to update this post to correct any errors I may have made, and to reflect additional facts brought to my attention.

As far as other ski patents: Line has no patents assigned to them, so I don't see how they can have patented twin tips. (Please correct me if I've missed it.) The Spatula patent has apparently been abandoned, as I mentioned. And the ARG is clearly patterned after the DB/DPS Lotus 138, not the Spatula.

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October 30, 2010
1:35 pm
Powderhound23
Guest

J. Stanton,

Sorry, my words may have been a bit harsh, it's just that the article seems a touch biased.

Rossignol has over 180 patents. Line for sure has a patent on Twin Tips, that's common industry knowledge for years. Maybe the patent is now assigned to K2, try that search. and they would cease and desist anyone that made a true twin tip, every ski company has design arounds. For years most ski companies had to pay 5 bucks per pair of twin tips sold to some guy in Seattle and it never was made public knowledge, but this guy got rich and it never affected our prices. He had a patent.

There are more patents than you think out there in the ski industry, and this kind of stuff is probably pretty common I am guessing. The S7 is so similar, maybe it was the right thing for them to do. I certainly don't agree with Rossi suing Armada, they should just work it out.

I am not too familiar with DPS so I cannot comment on whether or not they copied, but with Armada's team like and the inspiration and proximity of McConkey, it would be unclear as to how or why they could do that. They definitely applied for a patent before DPS, so clearly they were working on it at the same time or before. They have always claimed to have patterned ARG after spatula.

It won't make any difference to innovation (it will only encourage) and certainly no difference on price. Rossi already charges WAY more than Armada for the same ski, so they have plenty of profit, because they make their own skis and have a huge factory.

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November 4, 2010
10:55 pm
Backcountry.com: The
Guest

[...] camber skis. Rossignol did not take it well when theirs arrived in the mail. Read about the lawsuit here. var button = document.getElementById('facebook_share_link_14979') || [...]

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November 4, 2010
10:55 pm
Charlie
Guest

....yawn

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November 6, 2010
4:17 pm
Sluggo
Guest

DPS Engineer, Peter Turner, is the same Volant Ski Engineer that worked with McConkey.

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November 23, 2011
2:20 am
Dave h
Guest

I am aware of 1985 patent on fully rockered skis and early rise tip and tail designs. The patent was abandoned, but prevents subsequent similar patents. The holder was from Indiana! It is not hard to find in the free search websites, doesn't anyone do their homework anymore?

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November 23, 2011
2:45 am
Dave h
Guest

I'm guessing volant did

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