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Weagle sues Trek over suspension patent

Published September 7, 2012

MADISON, WI (BRAIN) — Split Pivot, Inc., the suspension company founded by Dave Weagle, is suing Trek Bicycle for patent infringement involving a rear suspension design.

The dispute involves a design, called Active Braking Pivot, that Trek has been selling for about four years. Split Pivot says the design violates its patent, which it has licensed to other companies. Trek, which has its own patent for the ABP, says it developed the technology independently of Weagle.

Both companies have patents that appear very similar, at least to the layman. They each involve a rear suspension design with a pivot concentric with the rear axle. Trek and Split Pivot have each promoted their designs’ ability to isolate braking forces from the suspension, so that braking doesn’t compress the suspension. 

But while the concentric pivot is the most noticeable feature of both designs, in itself the pivot is not even patentable — that innovation dates to the early 20th or even late 19th century. The Trek and Split Pivot patents differ in the ways the rear suspension linkages connect to the front triangle and the shock.

Weagle is suing in U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisconsin (Complaint. pdf), claiming that Trek is violating two of his patents, one issued in 2010 and one in 2011. He is asking for a jury trial and demanding licensing fees.

The discussion began as far back as 2007, when Weagle visited Trek and shared photos of his then-patent-pending design. Weagle’s suit notes that a month after that visit Trek applied for a patent for a concentric pivot design. Trek's patent was issued in 2010.

Trek’s lawyers have another several weeks to file a response to Weagle’s suit. Bob Burns, the company's  in-house council and vice president, said the company will fight the suit.

“Trek developed its APB technology completely  independently of Split Pivot and Dave Weagle,” Burns said. “We’ve patented it both in the U.S. and Europe. We think that Mr. Weagle’s lawsuit is without merit and we intend to vigorously defend the suit.”

Burns added “Our dealers can continue to sell our ABP bikes with confidence.”

Neither Weagle nor his attorneys were immediately available to discuss the suit.

Weagle, who lives in Massachusetts, has developed and patented several rear suspension designs that he has licensed to bike builders. His best-known design has been the DW-Link, which was licensed by Turner, Ibis, IronHorse and Independent Fabrication. The Split Pivot has been licensed to Devinci, Spooky, Seven and others.

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