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Never Summer Co-founder Tracey Canaday

Never Summer Co-founder Tracey Canaday

Never Summer received a patent for its Rocker/Camber (R.C.) technology on September 21. You can view the full Never Summer patent here. Never Summer’s Founders Tracey and Tim Canaday released the following statement regarding their patent and a rocker patent that Mervin Manufacturing just received a notice of allowance for:

On September 21, 2010 Never Summer Industries, Inc. was awarded a patent for its rocker and camber snowboard design.  Our patent is the result of a Never Summer research and design team that spent countless hours trying to improve the performance and ride-ability of snowboards to enhance the snowboarding experience.  We’re pleased to see not only the US Patent Office, but also the snowboarding public, recognize Never Summer’s innovative achievement. It appears that Mervin Manufacturing is also about to receive their own patent for their banana.  We’re happy for them and wish them success. So it really is an exciting time for snowboarders. With all these patented improvements they’ll now have a choice between Never Summer’s high-performance rocker and camber design, countless camber and flat-camber designs, or a banana.

Tracey and Tim Canaday

Never Summer Industries, Inc.

We caught up with Tracey Canaday to learn more about what the patent process entailed, how they plan to use it, and how it differs from Mervin’s patent.

Your patent application went through pretty quick considering the process. Can you give me a little history on that? The application was filed in April of ’08. Good lawyers will make it as efficient as possible for examiners. There are good patent attorneys and there are sub-par patent attorneys. The good ones know what examiners are looking for. They have to make it efficient for them. If it’s not efficient, or if it’s too vague, then it goes back to appeal and it keeps getting delayed. If your original application isn’t sound then you’ll get delayed and delayed. You may eventually get a patent but it’s going to take a lot longer.

Did you work with patent attorneys that you have in the past, or what was the vetting process to find a good one?

These are attorneys that we knew from Fort Collins, where we [Tracey and his brother Tim, who co-founded the company] grew up.

Your patent covers the R.C. design specifically which you guys have been using for the last two seasons?

Since ’08.  Our first ads with Rocker Camber I think were in your magazine in like July ’08. All of Mervin’s ads up until that time were the rocker with the flat area and then their C2 came out in ’09, a year later.

How much would you say your patent differs from C2?

There is no difference. With C2, they’re copying our design.

screen-shot-2010-09-29-at-35331-pmDid you envision this drama coming from this?

No, not at all. When we came up with our design, Mervin was doing awesome with their Banana Technology. Their Banana Technology in all of their catalogs and all of their ads specifically showed rocker between the feet and then flat areas. It’s even in diagrams all over their ads. The knock on that technology was that it was fun but not stable at speeds. We decided to make it much more high performance and that’s why we changed it. We’ve never built rocker/flat boards. We’ve never infringed on their design for a reason. We didn’t think it was a superior design so we wanted to come up with something better. Our sales have been so strong over the last couple years because we feel our design’s better.

What will be your next steps in enforcing the design?

I don’t know yet. I don’t know all the information. I’m taking a step back and seeing what Mervin’s doing. They seem to be very aggressive right now. We didn’t want to be aggressive, but obviously we have to fight for what we think is right. We’re proud of our patent and if somebody’s going to try and take it from us we’re going to fight.

In patenting this, was your goal to protect your proprietary technology or to license it out?

Originally it was to protect this idea that we had. We felt it was unique. I’ve heard people say it was just like what Inca was doing. Inca has a patent, it’s a double camber but it’s not a rocker. If you lay an Inca board down on a table the effective edges are going to touch on the table and then you’ll have two cambers over the mounting areas; so ours is much different. We wanted to protect [R.C.], but we also wanted big companies to know that we’re not trying to infringe on what they’re doing. K2 was doing their flat technology, and Mervin’s Banana Technology. In a slow economic time, you need something different to be able to sell to the public and keep the shops stoked on having something unique. We wanted to steer clear of Mervin and K2 with that and Inca as well. Before we did this, we looked at these things very closely to make sure we weren’t infringing.

Diagrams of Never Summer's Rocker/Camber patented technology from the patent.

Diagrams of Never Summer's Rocker/Camber patented technology from the patent. Tracey explains: "Standard practice to exaggerate drawings for examiners so they are more clear in what is being explained."

The patent process is lengthy and cost intensive, you’ve got to.

Totally, and at the same time when we started riding our new designs we wanted to protect them. We spent a lot of time and energy coming up with it, why wouldn’t we want to protect it? It’s a tough business and we’re one of the last manufacturers left in the United States—margins are slim, so any advantage we can find, we’d like to roll with that to make our business successful. There’s a reason why companies in our industry have gone out of business. They either weren’t watching their bottom line or they weren’t being innovative.

Did Mervin contest your patent or did you contest theirs at all? I understand you guys spoke about the original naming of R.C. as ReCurve?

Actually, we got a letter from their lawyers regarding ReCurve. It was used in their skis. Tim [Canaday] and I hunt with recurve bows and that’s why we wanted to use the name.  Once we received the letter from Mervin’s attorney, we discontinued using it and apologized even though we researched it afterward and found it wasn’t protected in the first place.

Was that from Mervin or Quiksilver?

It was Mervin’s lawyers.

And that was pretty much the extent throughout?

Yeah.

What’s your message to retailers and riders that are confused on this patent battle?

There’s a lot of different choices out there. We’re proud of our design. Mervin should be proud of their design. There are so many different profiles out there and it’s great for retailers and consumers—they have a choice. We’re just adding to that mix and I think it’s a great time in our industry because it was so stagnant for years and people weren’t really pushing the envelope. Now it’s awesome that so many people have different designs. It’s just more choices for consumers and that’s a good thing.

We are making this more complicated than it needs to be. Tim and I have been designing and building snowboards since the early 1980’s.  Mervin has been around a long time as well. Never Summer is innovative, Mervin is innovative.  Mervin has brought the industry: woodcores that are altered genetically, topsheets that are made of beans, teflon bases that don’t stick, Magnetraction etc,etc …….Never Summer has brought the industry: sintered ptex sidewalls, Vario Powergrip sidecut and bomb-proof durability.  Mervin IS MOST LIKELY getting a patent on banana technology which is a rocker board with flat areas out towards the effective edge.  Never Summer HAS a patent on a rocker board with camber areas out towards the effective edge.  Make your choice.

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