While Kelly Slater’s notoriety is likely the reason surfers may ultimately get to enjoy a surf park that replicates a real wave, it’s also likely that the Kelly Slater Surf Park Dream May NOT Become Reality. Instead it may be called Greg Webber Surf Park. It seems that Mr. Webber filed for a patent in 2004 that was approved in 2005 for a machine-made wave technology. And the technology that Kelly Slater is trying to get patented is just too similar Mr. Webber’s to qualify for a patent.
“Yet despite holding the only US patent for pools of this kind Greg Webber is not the name that comes to mind when most people think of wave pools. In 2008 Kelly Slater formed the Kelly Slater Wave Company, and since its inception he’s been creating and testing wave pools with a design very similar to Webber’s.
In the latest promotional video for the Kelly Slater Wave Company, ocean waves are interspersed with close-ups of miniature waves breaking in the wave pool. Again, no vision of their wave-making apparatus is shown. Halfway through the video Slater provides a voiceover, saying of his wave pool: “What we have is something totally unique.”
Except that they don’t have something unique. Since applying for a patent in 2008 Kelly Slater and his business partner, Adam Fincham, have twice been rejected because their wave pool infringes upon Greg Webber’s design. In both of their attempts – first in 2008 then again this year – the response from examiners at the US Patent Office has been identical: the design submitted by the Kelly Slater Wave Company is “unpatentable over Webber.” It is too similar to Greg Webber’s design for a patent to be granted.
Both wave pools are identical in concept: a circular pool with an island in the middle that waves break around. That idea cannot be patented, no-one can lay claim to it. The critical aspect of their wave pools, and the crux of the patent decisions, is how the waves are made.
A hull (or foil as it is called in the patent applications) is used in both Webber and Slater’s design to displace water and send a wake toward the island. Where the designs differ is that Webber’s hull sends two waves toward the island – as a boat on a river does – while Slater’s sends just one.
Slater and his company zeroed in on this point of difference hoping that it would be enough to classify their design as something new and of itself – unique enough to have its own patent. In documents accompanying their application they stated that “Webber does not generate a wave, but rather cause multiple wakes.” Regarding their own design, they placed emphasis on “solitary waves.”
The patents office didn’t agree and rejected their application in May. It was deemed that Webber’s patent also incorporates solitary waves. “It would have been obvious to one having ordinary skill in the art of invention” said the examiners in their rejection statement, “to modify the configuration of the foil shown by Webber.” Put simply, the number of waves produced from a hull aren’t a critical aspect of its overall design properties.
If the Kelly Slater Wave Company are to get their own patent they’ll either have to create a fundamentally different wave-making apparatus – which may explain the blurring in the CBS video – or they’ll have to take legal recourse. In the CBS piece Slater told Tracy Smith his wave pools would be ready for market by 2014, yet considering his design still isn’t patented that date seems fanciful. A new and heretofore unknown design will require rigorous testing, while a lawsuit will require a new avenue of argument. Both require time and money before they even get to the examiners desk at the US Patents Office.
Webber also holds the patents for China, Japan and Australia meaning Kelly Slater might be beaten for speed and he may also be outflanked. If that happens he’d be effectively comboed – shut out of the game.
It appears unlikely the Kelly Slater Wave Pool Company would invest so much for no financial return yet their next move is anyone’s guess.” Read the entire story here.
Kelly Slater Surf Park Dream May NOT Become Reality…or he might just pull this off too. Hey Kelly, have you thought about partnering with Greg Webber? His technology and your name are sure to be a winner for both of you…and all of us who are just waiting for the Grand Opening!