Oct 20 2010

Ortovox wins patent lawsuit against Mammut

by Craig Dostie

Ortovox released a press release today announcing a favorable decision by a higher court in Dusseldorf, Germany that Barryvox had infringed on their patent of a compass function in an avalanche transceiver. The decision comes on appeal to an earlier decision against Ortovox and the rationale for the change in the courts position has yet to be published.

According to Ortovox, Mammut, the distributor of Barryvox avalanche transceivers, is obliged to take back all Barryvox Pulse transceivers at German retailers and refund their money or change the software program to ensure that the compass function is no longer available on the Barryvox Pulse as described in the patent.

The Mammut Sports Group has announced that they will wait for the release of the official ruling before determining how to respond, emphasizing that they will “will work to find a lasting solution for the German market that does not affect the future safety of our customers.”

In layman’s terms the patent applies to the use of internal magnetic sensors in an avalanche transceiver to detect the orientation of the flux lines in combination with the earth’s magnetic field. According to Franz Kroell, product manager at Ortovox, this helps their S1 transceiver to determine the relative positions of multiple signals in relation to the earth’s magnetic fields. In effect, the patent uses the earth’s magnetic field as a reference to help distinguish the orientation of the flux lines of a victim’s beacon.

The patent protects using the earth’s magnetic field in combination with the flux lines of target beacon. Therefore this will not affect the ability of Pulse transceivers to detect the signal from a buried avalanche beacon, but it may force a change in the processing algorithms that utilize the earth’s magnetic field as a point of reference for determining direction to the flux line.

This ruling may be used as a precedent to pursue a similar infringement lawsuit against Mammut in other countries as well. According to Mammut, the valid Ortovox patent is significantly different in Germany from other countries and the Barryvox Pulse does not infringe on these other patents.

Bottom Line:
As a precautionary measure, if I were a Pulse owner living outside Germany, I’d get my Pulse upgraded to the latest firmware version before it is changed to eliminate the relevant compass function.