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Help UV Flashlight owners fight this patent troll!

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There is a company (Way Too Cool - aka WTC) claiming to have a patent on the black filter used on our UV flashlights. They want to make it more expensive to own and develop UV flashlights, effectively a monopoly on the market. Filtered 365nm flashlights, which are very important for mineral collectors and light purists, are significantly inflated in price by these actions. Investment in R&D is discouraged.

I was sued by him last year for open sourcing my flashlight design that I released to help the fluorescent mineral hobbyist (Convoy C8 UV), but that suit was dismissed. Now with a new lawyer, he is suing a friend of mine manufacturing the light. He has also bullied Simon of Convoy (China) preventing him from shipping UV lights to the USA. He is threatening numerous other lawsuits against other individuals.

We need your help by contributing any amount to our legal defense fund on https://gogetfunding.com/uvunited/. We intend to win the fight detailed on that page and invalidate his patent claims so that he can't do this again to any other flashlight enthusiasts.


Here is some background for those interested:


Patents and 365nm UV flashlights

(This post is my personal opinion. I am not posting as a representative of the FMS. I am not a patent attorney. I am not encouraging anyone to infringe on any valid patents. Please do your own research and consult with your own attorney. I am only stating facts (and some opinions) that I have discovered so that the public is aware of them and can make informed decisions.)


Way Too Cool has a patent for wave transforming filters – far different from colored bandpass filters. They have been claiming that this patent also covers colored glass bandpass filters (like ZWB2 and Hoya). This has caused severe problems for our hobby by preventing R&D and suppressing DIY discussions, while WTC has not designed and produced any viable LED products of their own. They even copied an open-source design (the FyrFly) , then made and made this statement on their website:


“This product was inspired by Mark Cole. Way Too Cool asked the Convoy manufacturer to make a REAL CONVOY flashlight based on Mark's design. Mark modified a Convoy C8 flashlight by installing a UV LED and a filter. Mark then open-sourced the design. The problem with Mark open sourcing this flashlight design is that the use of the filter in the UV LED flashlight is illegal infringement of the patent and telling everyone to make their own is also illegal infringement. Making and selling filtered UV LED flashlights without a license to use the patent is illegal.”


The use of a colored glass filter in any kind of UV light, including UV flashlights, is well known and documented. I made one and used it as early as 2004 on my 2nd trip to Greenland (well before the WTC patent). I told WTC about this flashlight I made and he proceeded to start selling a similar light. Although I am not a patent lawyer, I do have common sense. My opinion is that this is “prior art” and the WTC claims are invalid, no matter how they try to twist the wording of the patent. WTC is acting as a patent troll (look it up). This is my opinion. I do not manufacture or sell flashlights.


But – patent law being what it is, there are all kinds of threats about lawsuits being bantered about. Apparently a lawsuit by WTC/Gardner was filed naming Engenious Designs, the FMS, me personally, this FB group, along with others – but was never served; I think the court rejected it for some reason; new paperwork is reported to be in the works. WTC is proactively shutting down imports from China of these lights by threatening action. But new ones pop up almost daily. I feel that this is a great disservice to our hobby. I believe WTC is acting as a patent troll, misstating their patent to force people to pay licensing fees, or to stop designing and selling products.


Prior Art

Prior art, in most systems of patent law, is constituted by all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality. If an invention has been described in the prior art or would have been obvious from what has been described in the prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid. I did some research into prior art using colored glass bandpass filters and came up with this documented evidence of prior art (documenting the proof was the problem, we all know it’s prior art – this clearly documents the prior art in writing):

As early as Sept. 2000 (far prior to the WTC patent) Don Klipstein, a well-known flashlight enthusiast, published the use of a bandpass filter (Wood’s Glass) with Nichia UV LEDs on his website - http://www.misty.com/~don/ledbl.html. Further investigation showed that he filed a couple of patents mentioning the use of these filters in flashlights *years* before the WTC patent was filed. This clearly established the prior art.


I contacted Klipstein and this was his reply:


“As for a patent disclosing an LED flashlight intended to cause fluorescence of materials and having a filter that blocks wavelengths longer than the wavelengths used to cause fluorescence: You found the Canadian one. The original US one is 7,214,952. The part about adding a filter is in the Summary of the Invention and in the part of the detailed description for Figure 5 that mentions the lens 507. This patent was filed July 7 2004. It is based heavily on Provisional Application 60/481,986, filed February 1 2004, and I believe that provisional application mentions use of a filter to block LED wavelengths longer than the ones desired for causing fluorescence.”


Further, he proceeded to give me (and the hobby) permission to use his “invention” saying that the use of filters would not infringe on any of his patents (quote below):

“I have no problem with you making use of any technical material disclosed in patents where I am an inventor if that is done in ways not infringing on claims in them that are still in force. I expect that LED blacklight flashlights with filters and that are useful for causing fluorescence of rocks/minerals at least generally won't infringe on any patents where I am an inventor and that are still in force. (The 22 US patents having me as a named inventor are listed at http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2....)”


My opinion is that no patents specifically cover the use of bandpass filters, even Klipstein’s. They are common knowledge and any patent claiming such would be invalid based on prior art. But the Klipstein patents clearly document this prior art and, even if one were to accept the WTC claim that their patent covers bandpass filters, this published prior art negates those claims.


Why am I posting this? LEDs are the future. Way Too Cool is restricting R&D into this area, and artificially driving the price of our flashlights to ridiculous levels. My personal opinion is that WTC is simply stretching the wording of their patent and acting as a patent troll by saying that it covers bandpass filters. I feel this is invalid, if simply only because of prior art (ignoring the obvious technical reasons such a claim is invalid). I want to see serious development of UV flashlights, along with fair pricing.

Consult your own attorney – I am not an attorney.



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