Stan’s Wins in Patent Battle Against Specialized

Tubeless rim maker wins latest ruling in drawn-out dispute

A federal court has upheld a previous ruling by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, declaring Stan’s NoTubes’ U.S. Patent Number 7,334,846 to be valid. The patent protects technology used in Stan’s rims ZTR rims, sales of which exceeded 350,000 between 2004 and 2011.

The decision represents a win for Stan’s in a drawn-out court battle with Specialized. The fight goes back to 2008, when Stan’s sued Specialized, alleging that the California brand’s 2008 Control Rims had infringed on U.S. Patent Number 7,334,846. The rim described in the patent features shorter sidewalls, which are claimed to reduce the frequency of pinch flats while allowing the use of lower pressures and increasing the tire’s contact patch. The patent also describes the elimination of the conventional bead lock for a hooked shape which better matches the shape of the tire bead, creating a tighter air seal and reducing stress on the tire. Finally, the humped trough, as described by Stan’s, increases strength and stiffness while easing tubeless mounting.

A diagram illustrating the patented features of Stan's ZTR rim: a humped trough, shorter sidewalls and the  absence of a conventional bead lock.
A diagram illustrating the patented features of Stan’s Notubes’ ZTR rim: a humped trough, shorter sidewalls and the absence of a conventional bead lock.

Specialized won the first round in this federal dispute with Stan’s in 2012, when the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences ruled in favor of the “Big S” on the basis of the company’s argument that Shimano patents granted in 2003 and 2006 invalidated Stan’s NoTubes’ patent. The court noted at that time that its decision could be appealed. Stan’s filed a request to reopen that case soon after, and Specialized’s claim of invalidity was rejected in November of 2014, resulting in a civil settlement in which Specialized paid out $75,000 to Stan’s as compensation for legal fees, but did not admit liability.

In March of 2015, Specialized filed another appeal in the Federal Circuit, this time contending the 2014 rejection of their invalidity claim. A decision in that case was issued last Thursday in favor of Stan’s. Evidence of the success of Stan’s ZTR rims as well as praise for their patented features may have helped demonstrate that the claims of the ’846 patent are valid.

“We are pleased to have reached a positive conclusion regarding our rim design patent. The court’s decision further strengthens our patent portfolio,” said Stan’s NoTubes co-owners Stan and Cindy Koziatek. “We look forward to continuing the advancement of tubeless wheels for all cycling applications.”

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