SRAM files lawsuit against Princeton CarbonWorks for patent infringement

Those whale-inspired wheels are a source of contention.

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As reported by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, SRAM is suing Princeton CarbonWorks for its supposed infringement on two patents related to the humpback whale-inspired rim shape design found on the Zipp 454 NSW wheels (Zipp is owned by SRAM).

Based partly on biomimicry research of the bumps (tubercles) found on the humpback whale’s pectoral fins, Zipp’s undulating sawtooth-like rim profile is said to mimic the aerodynamic qualities of a deeper-section rim without the usual trade-off in crosswind stability. Zipp came to market with this acquired design in 2016, with the first of two patents granted to the inventor Dimitris Katsanis in 2017.

Introduced in 2018, Princeton CarbonWorks rims share a similar aesthetic to that of the Zipp 454 NSW. Princeton CarbonWorks claims its design uses a symmetrical sinusoidal profile while Zipp’s is more of an asymmetrical wave. And such a difference is obvious to the eye.  

Zipp’s design features a sawtooth-like profile.
Princeton CarbonWorks employs more symmetrical shaping. However the aerodynamic goal is much the same.

James Huang has reviewed both of these wheels in years past and commented on the similarities in his review of the Princeton Carbon Works Wake 6560 wheels. At the time the waters were left murky when James prodded both SRAM and Princeton Carbon Works over such fairly obvious similarities. 

“It’s in Princeton CarbonWorks’ interest to spend our resources developing next-level product that surpasses our competitors,” explained Princeton Carbon Work’s former COO Paul Daniels back in 2018. “If we have to pay a royalty along the way because economics dictate that’s a better decision than litigating patent law, then so be it.”

Fast forward to today and SRAM has filed a civil complaint against the small wheel company for willful patent infringement. According to Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, SRAM is seeking tripled damages be paid along with the destruction of remaining inventory. 

“We have received their complaint and it is being reviewed by our counsel,”  Princeton CarbonWorks’ co-founder and CEO Harrison Macris told CyclingTips. 

Meanwhile, SRAM is keeping equally tight-lipped on the matter. “We don’t comment on ongoing litigation,” said the company’s road communications manager, Michael Zellmann. 

Certainly, there’s more to come on this matter. 

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