I have to say that this whole topic has me a little baffled.
Personally I have a tough time seeing what the problem is here but
maybe that’s just me. Ok, so let’s look at the progression of this
John Palmer wrote:
Hopefully, you are correct in thinking that the argentium patent
(and pending applications) are not formidable obstacles to jewelry
makers who work with Argentium sterling silver.
James Binnion wrote:
I read his patent the same way, he claims the process of diffusion
bonding using his alloys as a protected process. So if that is a
correct reading anyone who is making mokume using Argentium without
a license from him is in violation of that particular patent.
Judy Hoch wrote:
Would some one who knows more than me please intervene with the
patent office on this? We don't need another patent granted that
keeps us from doing what we have done before.
It would appear that the concern is that there is something unusual
and potentially threatening in the wording of the Argentium Silver
(AS) patents. I’ve done a little informal research myself on this and
I’d say we’re making mountains out of molehills here.
First question first: is there something unusual about the wording
and/or claims made in the Argentium Silver (AS) patents? I’m going
to look at a more or less random sample of other precious metal alloy
patents to see how they compare. If they contain similar clauses and
wording they we can probably conclude that the concerns being raised
here are unfounded, or at the very least they apply to precious
metal alloy patents in general and not Argentium Silver specifically.
In US patent 7118707 (inventor Marc Robinson of ABI, Silver-Platinum
alloy aka “claim 1”) the patent says:
"What is claimed is…
A jewelry item comprising the alloy composition of claim 1, said
jewelry item is selected from the group consisting of bracelet,
ring, necklace, brooch, cuff links, pin, and watch.
A flatware item comprising the alloy composition of claim 1, said
flatware item is selected from the group consisting of knife, fork,
spoon, tray, pitcher and plate.
The alloy of claim 1 is formed into a configuration selected from
the group consisting of grains, sheets, and tubes."
So, if we were to apply the line of thought being pursued by John,
James and Judy we’d conclude that all jewlery, flatware and stock in
the Silver-Platinum alloy is subject to patent violation claims by
Marc Robinson and ABI.
In US patent 6139652 (inventor: Richard Carrano, Stern Leach) under
the title “Tarnish-resistant hardenable fine silver alloys”
(obviously of a specific composition) the patent says:
"What is claimed is:…
- The silver alloy… formed into an ornamental object."
Again, one could conclude that we’d best not make an “ornamental
object” out of that alloy because we might get sued.
A brief tour through a variety of other US alloy patents (see
http://patft.uspto.gov) yields many similar "what is claimed"
And at this point I felt that I had to honest with myself: I’m
reading legal documents and drawing conclusions based on… complete
Any lawyer, patent lawyer or otherwise, will tell you for free (!)
that Joe and Jane Average – I’m one such Joe – are simply not
qualified to do this, and on this rare occasion they are (probably)
telling the truth.
So, how is it that everyone should now feel qualified to read and/or
evaluate alloy patents? I’m know I’m not. John, James, Judy, are
With a few rare exceptions I’d venture to say that Orchid members in
general are not… so why are we pretending to be thusly qualified
when it comes to the Argentium Silver patents?
Ok, so FWIW, I had a brief discussion with a friend that knows
something of patents what I was told was this:
patents are legal documents prepared by patent lawyers for the
purposes of defending patent claims in a court of law.
Interpretations of said documents outside of the legal context are
highly suspect (read: “almost always rubbish”).
patents for a particular field generally follow a similar form and
convention: what you see done in one particular patent will very
likely appear in many patents of that sort in that field. It’s a
matter of legal precedent and convention. Very often the patent
documents are virtually boiler-plated from one application to the
patent claims are generally written to be as broad as possible,
staking claim to anything you don’t want someone else claiming with
your invention. If you don’t it someone else will so do it to cover
yourself and maintain as much control of your invention as possible,
for legal purposes.
If someone cares to enlist the services of a qualified patent lawyer
and share their professional assessment of the patents in question
with us I’m all ears but until something like that happens we’re all
just guessing and gossiping aren’t we?
Ok, enough of the legal-shmegal stuff. Second question: is there a
threat here to us as makers of jewlery, flatware and ornamental
Frankly I’m wondering what has happened to people’s common sense.
Does anyone seriously think that someone would invent something,
spend a decade or more getting it into production and then prohibit
people from using it? C’mon guys, does that sound rational to you?
And this obviously doesn’t just apply to AS, it applies to a myriad
of other precious metal alloys because they too claim this, that and
the other thing that we might want to make or do with them.
At some point the paranoia over what might or might not be in the
patents has to give way to a little “I buy metal and I make stuff
with it” rationality. For the inventor to even dream of messing with
us and what we do with their metal would be financial and
professional suicide: one single case of a maker being sued for
making something would kill the alloys marketability stone dead. The
makers would shy away, sales fall, the retailers back away,
production drops and eventually stops and finally it’s just one for
the history books. I seriously doubt that anyone involved with AS has
anything like that in mind as the future they envision for
And last but not least, are we alone in this? I don’t think so. If
I’m not mistaken Asian factories are using AS by the ton so why do we
think that the AS guys would want to hassle us for difussing the
metal or whatever in our teensy little shops? Hello! Doesn’t anyone
else get the feeling that we’ve got a much ado about nothing
situation on our hands here?
in The City of Light
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